The concept of wellness has been stressed in medical education over the past decade as institutions across the country take steps to monitor residents while they complete their postgraduate training. It is well-documented that physicians are more likely to suffer a host of psychological conditions than their non-medically employed peers. These conditions include depression, anxiety, isolation, suicidal thinking, substance abuse and burnout. COVID-19 only served to exacerbate the stress on clinicians. Alternatively, the pandemic has triggered a greater awareness of wellness and self-care around the globe, significantly reducing the stigma attached to psychological distress in the workplace. National and local programs now speak openly about pressures members of the medical community face, and increased resources have become available to improve well-being.
On the national level, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has convened multiple task forces designed to improve resident wellness. These committees include professionals from diverse backgrounds in medical education, including physicians, administrators and mental health providers. Professionals have shared areas of concern as well as local interventions employed to reduce the negative effects associated with burnout, compassion fatigue and moral injury. Creativity in the workplace and shift scheduling, improved access to wellness activities and developing a greater sense of community within and between programs were just a few ideas suggested for intervention.
As the task forces continued to share ideas and develop interventions, it became evident that the concept of wellness is everyone’s responsibility. Certainly, individuals needed to monitor their own stress levels and negative affect, but institutional leaders also had a role to play. The focus began to change from individual internal characteristics, such as diet, exercise and socialization, to external workplace factors, like unreasonable job expectations and lack of access to effective intervention programs. ACGME task forces began to focus their interventions toward large-scale solutions that can alleviate stress on a macro level. Potential solutions for the issue included built-in flexibility for keeping personal medical appointments, allowing more time off for mental health maintenance and improved availability for protected time to eat healthy meals. The ACGME has developed a collection of resources for the graduate medical education community that can be found here.