Individual Strategies to Promote Well-Being

While system-level changes are needed, individual strategies show promise in helping clinicians build resilience in the face of burnout.

Demands placed on clinicians by the health care system contribute greatly to burnout and dissatisfaction. In addition to necessary system-level solutions, strategies like mindfulness and meditation have also shown promise in helping individuals build resilience in both their personal and professional lives.

Stress on Clinicians and Trainees

Clinicians face many complex responsibilities in their daily lives and must make potentially life-saving and life-altering decision each day they show up for work. Strenuous reporting requirements, long work days, and understaffing leave many clinicians with less time with patients than ever before.  Enduring enormous work stress can be overwhelming and can be compounded by personal stressors.

While there has been prolonged investigation into the prevalence of clinician burnout, slow progress has been made in actually implementing solutions that help clinicians thrive. While system-level solutions, including buy-in and purposeful investment from leadership, is critical, individual strategies, like mindfulness, also show promise in helping clinicians develop resilience  and cope with work-related stressors.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Studies suggest that meditation results in anatomical changes in the brain that lead to significant reductions of worry, state anxiety, and depression. While the practices to cultivate mindfulness originate from traditional Eastern meditation, these practices have increasingly been used in health care settings. Research suggests that formal programs which place an emphasis on learning techniques for mindfulness and open communication can be a useful tool to both clinicians and trainees. Leadership is instrumental in creating a culture that sustains resilience and supports clinician well-being. Organizations and universities could consider implementing programs that allow for practicing clinicians and trainees to learn techniques for practicing mindfulness in their daily lives. Click here to view nine tips for mindfulness.  Mobile applications are also available to help tailor mindfulness to anyone and everyone’s needs. Web-based cognitive behavioral therapy may also help prevent suicidal ideation and reduce insomnia, anxiety, and depression in clinicians and trainees.

Click here for a roundup of mobile applications to help guide your own mindfulness and meditation.

While organizations play a critical role in combating clinician burnout, strategies like mindfulness also show promise in helping clinicians build resilience.

Coping with Stress and Building Resilience

Resilience is a multidimensional characteristic that embodies the personal qualities that enable one to thrive in the face of adversity. Resilience can be built and fostered and is a dynamic, evolving process of positive attitudes and effective strategies. Four main aspects of resilience have been identified: (1) attitudes and perceptions, (2) balance and prioritization, (3) practice management style, and (4) supportive relations.  Personal qualities associated with resilience include the ability to engage the support of others, optimism, faith, the belief that stress can be strengthening, and striving towards personal goals. Psychological resilience in intensive care unit nurses has been independently associated with a lower prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder and burnout.

Exercise, fitness, and nutrition are also important when coping with stress. Stanford’s WellMD website offers helpful tips, exercises, and stretches to help individuals remain physically active even while at work. Stanford also offers helpful tips for work-life integration and finding balance.

Steps Forward from the American Medical Association offers a variety of modules for preventing physician distress and suicide, improving resilience, and for promoting well-being in residents and fellows. You can explore their website in greater depth to find activities aimed to help individuals enhance their professional well-being. CME credits are available for most modules.

The American Nurses Association recently launched its Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge which aims to broadly connect and engage individuals and partner organizations to take action within five domains: activity, sleep, nutrition, quality of life, and safety.

Bottom Line

While organizations play a critical role in systematically implementing strategies to reverse burnout and promote well-being, individual strategies, like practicing mindfulness, also show promise is helping clinicians manage stress and build resilience, manifesting in better patient care.