Residency

Help residents chill out, not burn out

Residency Program Alert, September 1, 2009

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Residents don’t start their training thinking it’s going to be a cakewalk. They expect long hours and a fast-paced, high-stress environment. What they often don’t anticipate is the toll this lifestyle can take on them.

“I just don’t think residents come in prepared for the level of burnout that they may experience,” says Cynthia Anderson, MD, anesthesiology program director at University of California, Irvine.

The medical education environment is ripe with stressors that can cause residents to burn out, but the amount of burnout prevention resources and education available to residents varies greatly among programs. Addressing burnout in one or two conferences probably isn’t enough to teach residents how to identify and manage their stress. Program directors, faculty members, and coordinators should strive to create a culture of resident well-being with a robust burnout education curriculum at its center.

An environment focused on well-being is beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Patient care. Patient care may be jeopardized when a resident becomes burned out. Research shows the quality of care decreases, and burned-out residents make more medical errors and are more susceptible to drug or alcohol abuse and depression.
  • Accreditation. Burnout is a component of fatigue, which the ACGME is focusing on now, Anderson says. Site visitors are looking for documentation of stress and fatigue training and monitoring.
  • It’s a good investment. After investing so much time bringing these individuals into your program, it’s worth the effort to keep them healthy. Additionally, residents will be able to use the coping techniques they learn throughout their career.

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Residency Program Alert.

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