By Tom Lacock
Wyoming Medical Society
Research suggests physician burnout begins in medical school and seems to really impact future physicians as residents. The University of Wyoming’s Family Medicine Residency Program in Casper is doing something about it.
“Our national Family Medicine Residency Association’s annual meeting had a keynote speaker discuss physician and resident wellness,” said Beth Robitaille MD, program director of the Casper residency. “In the presentation, I learned a couple of haunting stats: The second leading cause of death in resident physicians is suicide; and the top cause of death in male residents physicians is suicide.”
That meeting, as well as updated requirements from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, has resulted in development of a wellness committee where Katrina Quick, MD, a chief resident, has been co-chairing the residency’s wellness committee with Daniel Burris, MD. The effort focuses on fun events to allow residents to decompress, such as a trip to a pumpkin patch/corn maze, dodgeball games, apple pie event, arabesques drawing/coloring session, lunchtime yoga, and more.
“The goal is to offer a variety of relaxing, mindfully distracting activities to help residents, myself especially, take a step back from our highly demanding, highly stressful work environment,” Quick says. “We recognize that everyone experiences ‘wellness’ in different way and for that reason all of the events are completely optional and there is no pressure to attend.”
Meanwhile, Burl Maurer, the program’s faculty behaviorist, works routinely with the residents and leads the monthly resident support group. A bi-monthly wellness class is also led by members of the Wellness Committee. Maurer also leads confidential discussions between intern residents, a senior resident and himself, which are a time for voicing frustrations, dealing with tough situations, and learning to resolve conflict.
“We feel that resident wellness relies on the individual health of the resident that is fortified by the support of their peers who are going through the same stressful time in their professional training,” said Robitaille.