The International Conference on Physician Health (ICPH) was held in Toronto from Oct 10-13 and addressed many issues leading to stress and burnout. There were over 500 registered attendees from 16 counties and every panel, workshop and presentation was standing room only! This level of interest, energy and participation was a double-edged sword because even though more attendees were there to tackle this issue, everyone acknowledged the problem was only getting worse.
There were many great topics and presentations and the following are my top five key themes.
- Cultures need to change. Rather than siloed groups or pushing the “Iron Doc” model, we often heard that cultures need to become proactive and supportive. Particularly with a new generation of medical professionals coming onboard who have different expectations for work-life balance and feel free to leave more quickly for a better opportunity to fit their lifestyle.
- Systems, administration and physicians are not aligned. Although everyone wants to do the best they can for patients, their point of views differ. For example, required documentation in EHR’s was said to take two hours for every one hour spent with a patient. And, there was difference in opinion of whose responsibility it is to ensure physicians (and their care teams) are healthy. Open channels of communication and coordination teams were suggested to address cultural issues as directly as possible.
- Medical schools and residents focus on well being. Many universities presented programs they’ve initiated to address well being at the grass roots level. Additionally, the AMA highlighted an initiative with over 30 universities to formally add well being programs into their curriculums. The goal is twofold: to support the students and residents during stressful times and to instill a practice of well being throughout their careers.
- Peer Coaching is critical, and it really works. Peer Coaching had its own track and it was clear this topic resonated with all attendees. Barriers perceived to utilizing internal peer coaching and support include issues with confidentiality and the stigma associated with support provided by peers.
This is something we have looked at extensively, and from our 10+ years of experience in healthcare, we have developed peer coaching as a stand-alone solution, or as part of our Physician Well Being Resources. Having an external, confidential coach outside of the organization can have a major impact on the physician’s ability to not only take advantage of the resource, but also in allowing him or her to open up and get the most out of the resource.
- Compassion, appreciation and trust. Measuring your well being program is a challenge and you don’t want to reward or promote efforts that are not core to supporting good patient care. While nearly everyone is trying something, there have not been measurable, fact-based tactics that work for everyone. However, many at the conference said soft practices work and make everyone feel good. Such as offering compassion to your peers, listening, expressing trust or sharing gratitude all create a good feeling that can re-energize you and is contagious to others.
As the opening speaker said, little things can add up like a grain of sand (or snowflake), and if each person in the audience can just do one thing, then a lot will happen. There is clearly much more to do, and by focusing on culture, communication, peer support and having compassion you will have a good start on your pathway to well being.
We Can Help
What is your organization doing to support your physicians and their well being? As we learned at ICPH, there is a lot left to be done, and we can help support your organization, leaders and physicians on this journey. Our proactive, preventative Physician Well Being Resources offer proactive, preventative support for your physicians that including peer coaching, in the moment phone support, counseling, WorkLife Concierge, a virtual assistant to help with work-life balance, financial/legal resources and a mobile app. Contact us to learn more.