If you are like most doctors, you are sick of hearing about burnout. There is a big debate on whether burnout is real or whether physicians are suffering from something more sinister like moral injury or human rights violations. That doesn’t matter. In the end, no matter what name we give the problem, the real issue is that physicians are in fact suffering. We are suffering a lot. Some of us, around one physician per day, are forced to alleviate their suffering by taking their own life. Each year, a million patients lose their physicians to suicide. Many more physicians suffer in silence and self-medicate with drugs/alcohol in order to function.
As physicians trained in positive psychology, we have been deeply committed to helping other physicians and students improve their well-being. The focus on well-being is a welcome change in medicine. But is it enough?
Many of us no longer experience the same levels of meaning and fulfillment that should be inherent to the practice of medicine. We want to spend more time with our patients but we trade presence for productivity. We crave meaningful connections with the sick but find ourselves hoping this will be their last complaint. We want to go home energized after a day of serving others but find ourselves too exhausted to play with our kids.
Physicians are among the most intelligent, hard-working and (yes) resilient people in the world. Do we really need more resilience modules to help us get through our days? We are suffering because we have lost our ability to focus on what matters most. We are suffering because we refuse to stand together in the defense of our colleagues and the ideal practice of medicine. It is time to reclaim the joy and meaning in our work and in our lives. It is time to live the kind of life we all dreamed of living when we were young. We may be suffering but we are not weak. We are strong. We are already resilient enough. It's time that we started acting like it.
Rather than assume a passive victim role of an under-appreciated, burned out physician desperate to leave medicine, we can use our unique combination of intelligence, creativity and grit to take back control of our personal and professional lives.
So how do we do this?
We can work together to create a new model of medicine. One that has a focus on flourishing rather than simply avoiding burnout. One that teaches us how to optimize our highly trained skill set (physician zone) that is critical for fulfillment. One that provides a practical road map to financial independence that allows physicians to work on their terms. This new model is called Positive Medicine and with it, we can reclaim the meaning and joy that has been depleted from our profession. Instead of paving the way out for unhappy physicians, we can create a stable platform that attracts the best and brightest into the field, enables doctors to stand tall, thrive personally and professionally, and ultimately heal the world.
The Positive Medicine Program utilizes scientifically validated assessments and physiologic measures of well-being to create objective and meaningful change in physician’s lives. This evidence based program introduces the science of positive psychology, along with proven strategies to increase organizational efficiency and financial literacy. The concepts are explored through personalized sessions, interactive exercises and take-home strategies that have been proven to increase lasting well-being. This program addresses the underlying root causes of discontent that many of us feel and tailors personalized solutions to optimize both external workplace stressors as well as individual stress responses.
This proven program has enabled physicians to find more fulfillment in their daily practice of medicine, make smarter financial decisions, spend more quality time with their families, and create lasting improvements in their well-being!