Well-being in Residency: Impact of an Online Physician Well-being Course on Resiliency and Burnout in Incoming Residents

Fam Med. 2021 Feb;53(2):123-128. doi: 10.22454/FamMed.2021.314886.


Background and objectives: Wellness in residency has come to the forefront of national graduate medical education initiatives. Exponential growth in knowledge and skill development occurs under immense pressures, with physical, mental, and emotional stressors putting residents at burnout risk. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires programs to attend to resident wellness, providing the structure, environment, and resources to address burnout. This study's purpose was to evaluate the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine online Physician Well-being Course (PWC) with incoming postgraduate year-1 (PGY-1) residents in multiple residencies across a single health care system. The PWC teaches the learner strategies for building resilience, managing stress, identifying signs of burnout, and mindfulness practices including a self-selected daily 10-minute resiliency activity (meditation, gratitude journaling, and finding meaning journaling) for 14 days.

Methods: Incoming PGY-1 residents were enrolled in PWC 1 month prior to 2018 orientation. Validated measures of resiliency, burnout and gratitude were completed pre- and postcourse. We assessed pre/postcourse changes with paired t tests. We asked participants whether they incorporated any wellness behavior changes postcourse.

Results: Almost two-thirds of the incoming trainees completed the course (n=53/87, 61%). We found significant improvements (P<.05) for resiliency and burnout (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization). Gratitude did not change. The personal accomplishment burnout scale declined. The most frequently reported wellness behaviors were in the area of sleep, exercise, and diet.

Conclusions: Resiliency, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization improved, personal accomplishment declined, while gratitude remained the same. This project demonstrates an accessible and scalable approach to teaching well-being to incoming residents.