Overall health maintenance

Residency Program Insider, April 5, 2019

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Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Resident Well-Being: A Guide for Residency Programs. For more information about this book, click here.

How do doctors keep from getting sick? The simple answer is that they don’t! Residents are especially susceptible to illness given their overall stress levels, relatively poor fitness, and higher rates of sleep deprivation. Nevertheless, residents often do not seek routine or acute care, citing the inability to get time off of work during business hours as a major barrier to seeking care (Rosen, Christie, Bellini, & Asch, 2000).

Strategies for implementation
Encourage routine healthcare visits. Residents should be encouraged to see their primary doctors annually and a dentist semiannually. At some programs, this is an expectation and is monitored at resident review meetings (Salles, Liebert, & Greco, 2015). Secure adequate time off during business hours for healthcare visits, and provide residents with their work schedules far enough in advance that they can make appointments for the days they know they have off.

Thinking outside the box: One institution reports using a “Resident Wellness Time Off Policy” that assigns residents four half-days off per academic year for healthcare and wellness (Cedfeldt et al., 2015). Make available a guide that includes area primary care physicians and dentists recommended by resident peers or faculty.

Medical and maternity leave
In addition to focusing on illness prevention, have a plan in place for when a resident falls ill. Whether this plan is a backup schedule or allows for flexing shifts to more hours, your policy should be made well known to the residents in advance of an event. Calling in available residents at random or soliciting for volunteers in the event of a “man down” situation is not ideal and may create a tendency toward animosity toward or resentment of the fallen resident. Similarly, a plan should be in place for residents who are on prolonged sick or maternity leave. Having such a plan not only ensures that the resident is given the time and peace of mind in order to recover but also ensures that the remaining residents are able to work in an organized environment.

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