Physician resilience: what it means, why it matters, and how to promote it

Acad Med. 2013 Mar;88(3):301-3. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318280cff0.


Resilience is the capacity to respond to stress in a healthy way such that goals are achieved at minimal psychological and physical cost; resilient individuals "bounce back" after challenges while also growing stronger. Resilience is a key to enhancing quality of care, quality of caring, and sustainability of the health care workforce. Yet, ways of identifying and promoting resilience have been elusive. Resilience depends on individual, community, and institutional factors. The study by Zwack and Schweitzer in this issue of Academic Medicine illustrates that individual factors of resilience include the capacity for mindfulness, self-monitoring, limit setting, and attitudes that promote constructive and healthy engagement with (rather than withdrawal from) the often-difficult challenges at work. Cultivating these specific skills, habits, and attitudes that promote resilience is possible for medical students and practicing clinicians alike. Resilience-promoting programs should also strive to build community among clinicians and other members of the health care workforce. Just as patient safety is the responsibility of communities of practice, so is clinician well-being and support. Finally, it is in the self-interest of health care institutions to support the efforts of all members of the health care workforce to enhance their capacity for resilience; it will increase quality of care while reducing errors, burnout, and attrition. Successful organizations outside of medicine offer insight about institutional structures and values that promote individual and collective resilience. This commentary proposes methods for enhancing individuals' resilience while building community, as well as directions for future interventions, research, and institutional involvement.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Resilience, Psychological*