How Can Leaders Help Physicians Build Resilience into their Daily Practice?

Posted on January 23, 2018 by VITAL WorkLife

Updated April 21, 2020

In our article “How to Lead the Way Toward Physician Well Being,” Craig Uthe, MD, medical director of physician well being at Sanford Family Medicine in South Dakota, defines resilience as “being able to persevere through the trials, tribulations, hurdles and obstacles of the medical practice.”1

Physician resilience is being recognized as more than a nice-to-have; it’s crucial in affecting how engaged and efficient practitioners are. And engagement and efficiency are bottom-line issues as well as ethical ones; truly engaged physicians provide better care and they are also more efficient and productive.


One of the most important ways leaders can support their physicians’ ability to positively persevere day to day is to work to create a culture of physician resilience. This means promoting honest communication about how practitioners feel about their daily workloads, the effect of the many pressures on them and other determiners of resilience or its absence.


It also means giving physicians good information about the warning signs of burnout, along with regular assessments to determine if they’re experiencing abnormal levels of stress leading to burnout.


One of the conclusions of our 2017 Physician & Advanced Practitioner Well Being Solutions Survey Report by VITAL WorkLife and Cejka Search is “issues with limited investment can effectively address and demonstrate immediate wins.”2 Consequently, when burnout threatens, simple solutions can have notable effects.

Dr. Uthe tells the story of a physician who was developing frustration, a red flag for burnout and receiving suboptimal patient-satisfaction scores. Leadership offered him a number of options for improving his well being, including mindfulness exercises and other health-enhancement measures. However, what worked best for him was simply reducing his practice by about five percent—a change he made with ongoing support from leadership. Dr. Uthe says he “found that his enjoyment of practice improved substantially by just cutting back about three patients a day.”

Spending a little more time with each patient lifted more than his mood; it boosted his patient ratings and his efficiency. Results like this, says Dr. Uthe, underscore the importance of leaders who understand the role of physician resilience in the overall healthcare equation.3

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Contact us to learn more about how you can foster physician resiliency and a culture of well being at your organization.


1. “How to Lead the Way Toward Physician Well Being” by VITAL WorkLife
2. 2017 Physician & Advanced Practitioner Well Being Solutions Survey Report by VITAL WorkLife and Cejka Search, p.28
3. Dr. Uthe (2017, Nov 3). Phone interview.

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