Don’t Forget the Humanity When Setting Up a Physician Well Being Program

Posted on April 21, 2022 by Vanessa Downing, PhD

If you’re considering creating a program to support the psychological and emotional well being of the people who work in your organization—or if you have one in place—then you’re already recognizing the key aspect of the humanity of healthcare workers. Your people are the most important asset you have and how they feel about the work they do will determine the success of your organization. The goal is to drive employee engagement and restore their joy for medicine, which fosters better quality care for patients. Your program can help offset mounting issues with burnout and the haunting notes of low morale and the loss of team members.

Insight Don't Forget HumanityThere’s more to it, of course. When creating a well being program, keeping a close eye on the human factor can help you put in place the kinds of measures that best support your people. Key points include:

Creating a “culture of care” that normalizes physician needs and seeking help. This is about making it okay to have all kinds of reactions when something awful happens at work. Physicians and nurses have been trained to push through their own pain and to prioritize the needs of patients. Some of this is necessary and functional in medicine, but it’s a habit that's hard to turn off when you need something for yourself. Having a well being program in an organization plants the seed that it's okay to have needs.

Help should be visible and easily accessible. Physicians are not only prone to “tough out” an emotional problem. They’re extremely busy and if they’re struggling emotionally as well, they’re likely to feel overwhelmed. Promoting and supporting your program consistently will keep it visible and provide easy access to resources when they feel the need arise.

Ensuring options and confidentiality. To reach out for help is among the most vulnerable things physicians can do. When they do express a need to talk with someone about a troubling event or issue the best peer support programs give them options: perhaps it’s someone in the organization in their specialty who can quickly understand their challenges. Or it might be someone outside of their daily work life or someone outside the organization entirely. The more options they have, the better they'll be able to take advantage of the support.

Supporting those who care for physicians. Your well being staff needs care, too. These teams are likely to be hearing about the worst things happening in healthcare systems, and this can be traumatic for them. Well being work is challenging and because it’s a nascent field, it’s very easy to feel isolated. Peer support for well being workers is so important and goes a long way for a successful program.

A well being program can provide positive effects in terms of reduced turnover, improved engagement and fewer medical errors . But ultimately, centering physicians’ humanity, and their concerns in well being discussions throughout the organization, will help everyone to start moving toward the same goals. Years of research show when people feel cared for and seen by empathetic and genuine leaders, they and the organization are stronger together.

To learn more about creating a sustainable well being program within your organization, download Launching a Well Being Program—Important Steps for Success.

Download Launching a Well Being Program— Important Steps for Success

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