Physician well-being is an important factor in providing the best possible care to patients. According to a viewpoint article published in JAMA, there is a correlation between physician challenges, such as burnout and dissatisfaction, and subpar patient care, among other negative effects.
Colin P. West, MD, PhD, of the Department of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues developed a charter document on physician well-being, which aims to outline specific principles that can be used to address physician well-being throughout an entire career.
“The charter will serve as a reference document for individual physicians and their organizations as they develop strategies to promote well-being,” said Dr West in an email to Medical Bag. “The guiding principles establish the foundational why and how elements, and the key commitments offer a set of goals organizations can measure themselves against as they implement solutions.”
Dr West and colleagues grouped their findings into a framework of 3 main categories: societal commitments, organizational commitments, and interpersonal and individual commitments.
The societal commitments identified by the investigators include maintaining a supportive culture through efforts such as ensuring that organizational and individual values are aligned and advocating for policies that promote well-being; for example, allowing physicians to seek routine mental health care with no fear of a licensing penalty.
Regarding organizational commitments, the researchers suggest working to build supportive systems, as factors like efficient patient flow and automated prescription lines have been shown to benefit physician satisfaction. Other organizational commitments include developing engaged leaders within organizations who are willing to prioritize physician well-being and optimizing interprofessional teams to achieve ends such as managing work intensity. The researchers point to individual and interpersonal commitments including responding to emotional challenges of physician work and prioritizing mental health care as well as practicing and promoting self-care among physicians. Because those in the medical field face unique challenges, including exposure to human pain and distress, they can benefit from both professional support systems and personal mindfulness and emotional awareness.
The authors stress that adequate physician well-being is an indicator of quality and is essential to effective patient care. It is also a collaborative effort meant to be shared between physicians and their team members as well as with larger institutions and groups.
“The Charter on Physician Well-Being is intended to inspire collaborative efforts among individuals, organizations, health systems, and the profession of medicine to honor the collective commitments of physicians to patients and to each other,” the authors concluded.
Thomas LR, Ripp JA, West CP. Charter on physician well-being [published online March 29, 2018]. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.1331