Physician burnout in urology residency: A path to wellness

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Physician burnout is a common problem encountered across all specialties and is associated with negative consequences such as poor mental health, medical error and compromised patient safety.

Unfortunately, up to 65% of urology residents suffer the emotional symptoms of burnout, which are typically characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment. Developing resilience to counteract burnout during medical training may be instrumental to prevent the sequalae of physician burnout.

Most existing efforts to promote resident wellness include restriction of clinical hours, participation in lectures and encouragement of diet and exercise. However, these interventions have equivocal impact on physician burnout.

Our residency program is forging a path to wellness at Baylor College of Medicine. Our trainees have collaborated with residency program leadership to design strategies that impact a broader target: program culture.

The Scott Department of Urology developed a Resident Wellness Curriculum (RWC), which includes a faculty-sponsored wellness fund, one-on-one structured mentorships, social groups between faculty and two to three trainees, resident-organized social outings, didactics and journal clubs.

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Exercise challenge with Baylor urology residents and program director, supported by the Wellness Fund (part of the RWC).

Following the intervention, the average Physician Well-Being Index score improved by 52%, demonstrating a meaningful decrease in burnout among trainees. Social outings were ranked as the most meaningful component of the curriculum. Several of our residents published a description of this curriculum to share the findings and hopefully inspire more departments around the country to pursue similar efforts.

While acknowledgement of burnout is a critical first step, programs will benefit from collaborating with their trainees to improve the program’s culture to create positive change in the domain of wellness.

Trainees can also refine wellness habits that promote sustainable careers in medicine with the help of expanding national resources, including those from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

Our RWC, which was designed based on input from trainees, demonstrated significant improvement in resident burnout. We hope our promising results will inspire education leaders to individualize programmatic measures targeting wellness with trainee input.

-By Amelia Khoei, fourth-year medical student, Dr. Sagar Patel, resident, Department of Urology and Dr. James Anaissie, resident, Department of Urology at Baylor College of Medicine, with guidance from Drs.  Jennifer Taylor and Wesley Mayer.

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