Your July 16 feature “Healing the healers” (G section) got my attention. Deterioration of health care professionals’ well-being from excessive stress is a widespread problem. I have researched the issue through extensive interviews with award-winning physicians, and found that the doctors’ methods for avoiding burnout included: setting appropriate limits, sharing issues with family and friends, physical exercise and cultivating relaxation, and humor. In other words, they consistently practice the type of sensible advice that they might give to any of us if we were their overburdened and depleted patients.
My conversations with the physicians revealed that they have given much thought to the need for treating themselves well, too, so as to continue to be available to patients and peers alike. The physicians live by a creed of doing good while doing well by the patient, and recognize that there was a spiritual, but not necessarily religious, undercurrent to their work that feeds their sense of vitality.
In this era of managed care, medical tourism, and health care disparities, many Americans have lost faith in the delivery system and their practitioners. So I’m pleased that there are reasons to be hopeful.
Your article profiled organizations that have been created recently to support beleaguered health care professionals. If the most vibrant and engaged leaders in medicine can find forums to share their words of wisdom, it could make a real difference to working practitioners and the next generation of health care providers.
The writer is associate professor of psychology at Bentley University’s Program in Health Sciences and Industry.