Wellness for GME Trainees
It has been said that life is a journey, not a destination. The life journey of physicians is both privileged and difficult. Physicians are highly regarded (and compensated) members of society, yet burnout is rampant in the profession. High rates of depression and suicide among physicians are sometimes compounded by the commonly felt ‘obligation’ to appear healthy as a demonstration of an ability to heal others.
Residents and Fellows can experience stressors unique to the training process (e.g., long hours, learning to deal with death and dying, frequent shifts in workplace settings, distance from family and support networks, etc.) that may increase the likelihood of experiencing depressive or other negative symptoms.
We like to use the analogy that trainees are like very expensive high performance sports cars. We invest a lot of time and money into them, and expect them to perform to the extremes of their engineering. But, we also recognize the need to provide proper maintenance to keep them performing optimally. We need to know how to put gas in the tank, change the oil, and replace the tires—and we need to know when to call the mechanic. For residents and fellows, maintenance includes the basics of eating and sleeping well, getting enough physical exercise, and maintaining social and family ties, but it also includes things like regularly assessing your wellbeing, recognizing personal and professional challenges, appropriately communicating concerns you may have, learning to effectively utilize applied skills such as mindfulness and stress management, and—importantly—being strong enough to ask for help when it is needed.
In recognition of the importance of the wellness and wellbeing of its residents and fellows, UT Southwestern established a Resident Wellness and Counseling (RWAC) Center. From managing burnout, to dealing with complex mental health conditions, to learning better test-taking strategies, the Center is a tremendous resource for all of our residents and fellows. Note that all information at the RWAC is confidential, and your RWAC records are separate from other medical record systems. Please call 214-648-9969 to schedule an appointment, or feel free to stop by for a visit to see what is offered. The RWCC is located in the S Building, S1.200, and it is here for you!
Research tells us that the major factors associated with resident well-being are autonomy, building of competence, strong social relatedness, sleep, and time away from work, and that perseverance is predictive of well-being, and greater well-being is associated with increased resident empathy. When the ACGME developed its new Common Program Requirements regarding wellbeing, they stated:
“Psychological, emotional, and physical well-being are critical in the development of the competent, caring, and resilient physician. Self-care is an important component of professionalism; it is also a skill that must be learned and nurtured in the context of other aspects of residency training.“
This statement emphasizes the fact that wellness and wellbeing are more than the absence of negative symptoms. Here at UT Southwestern, we want to enhance the meaning that each resident/fellow finds in the experience of being a physician and to maximize wellness and wellbeing among all our residents, fellows, faculty, and staff. We hope the resources listed on the Wellness section of our webpage will be helpful as your progress through your training.