Viewpoint Discusses Framework For Physician Well-Being

Addressing physician well-being within the culture of medicine and across its diverse members may help strengthen health care teams and improve health care system performance, according to a viewpoint published March 29 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Larissa R. Thomas, MD, MPH, et al., developed a charter of guiding principles and commitments as a framework for groups to address physician well-being from medical training throughout an entire career. "The Charter on Physician Well-being is intended to inspire collaborative efforts among individuals, organizations, health systems and the profession of medicine to honor the collective commitment of physicians to patients and to each other," the authors write.

The authors point out that the challenges of physician well-being are common, with problems including dissatisfaction, burnout, high rates of depression and increased suicide risk from premedical training through professional careers. These problems may lead to suboptimal patient care, lower patient satisfaction, decreased access to care and increased health care costs.

The charter's guiding principles state that physician well-being is necessary for effective patient care, related with the well-being of all health care team members, a quality marker for high-value care and a shared responsibility between physicians and their organizations.

Furthermore, the charter recommends that physicians honor collective commitments, including societal commitments to foster a trustworthy culture in medicine and advocate for well-being policies; organizational commitments to build support systems, develop leadership and optimize interprofessional teams; and interpersonal and individual commitments to respond to emotional challenges of physician work, prioritize mental health care and practice self-care.

"Physicians who are well can best serve their patients," the authors write. "Meaningful work, strong relationships with patients, positive team structures and social connection at work are important factors for physician well-being."

ACC President C. Michael Valentine, MD, FACC, discusses the importance of professional well-being in a recent Leadership Page in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. "For the majority of physicians, we practice medicine because of our passion for improving and saving the lives of patients," Valentine writes. "We can and must take care of ourselves to best take care of those we took an oath to serve."

Keywords: Leadership, Self Care, Burnout, Professional, Patient Satisfaction, Mental Health, Physicians, Patient Care Team, Patient Care, Health Care Costs

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