Changing the Conversation From Burnout to Wellness: Physician Well-being in Residency Training Programs

J Grad Med Educ. 2009 Dec;1(2):225-30. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-09-00026.1.


Background: The existing literature either does not address physician wellness or defines it as a lack of burnout. The goal of this article is to call attention to this important gap in the literature and provide ideas for how to fill it. We need a culture change, and we propose that this change begin within graduate medical education.

Methods: We describe a case example of culture change and definitions of wellness at William Beaumont Hospitals, Troy Family Medicine Residency Program, a community-based, university-affiliated program in suburban Detroit, Michigan.

Results: We developed a toolbox of practical steps to create a culture that emphasizes wellness. We present a general timeline illustrating necessary steps toward accomplishing a true cultural change.

Discussion: The time has come for academic medicine to move beyond a simple discussion of physician burnout. To do this, we must first develop a shared definition of physician wellness followed by interventional strategies to bolster it. The benefits of cultural change include providing a more positive educational environment for residents and faculty, raising awareness of burnout and its symptoms, decreasing the stigma associated with admitting burnout symptoms, enabling the development of prevention strategies, and creating a more positive, strength-based approach to understanding the toll of physician-patient relationships on physicians.