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Perspective: Resident Physician Wellness: A New Hope

Lefebvre, Dennis C. MD, PhD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31824d47ff
Graduate Medical Education

Residency training is a challenging period in a physician’s career owing to a multitude of stressors perhaps not previously encountered. In some cases, these stressors may culminate in a state of burnout. In response, much has been written about the issues of personal wellness during residency training. Recently, duty hours reform has been the major focus of addressing resident wellness; however, this intervention has established little benefit and has created unintended negative consequences. Alternatively, an emerging solution may be the implementation of resident wellness programs into residency training. Such programs are defined by a combination of active and passive initiatives targeting the various domains of physical, mental, social, and intellectual wellness. In contrast to duty hours reform, resident wellness programs are generally free from controversy and have been shown to improve resident wellness and enhance empathy.

This article highlights the salient causes of burnout as it applies to present-day resident physicians and the patient care they provide. Moreover, in the wake of the controversy surrounding duty hours reform, a novel approach to resident wellness involving structured resident wellness programs is discussed. Specifically included are the fundamental components of a wellness program, the advantages held over duty hours reform, methods to evaluate program efficacy, and the current evidence to support these initiatives. Formal wellness curricula, including an evaluative process, should be an integral component of physician training. These programs represent a new hope in the solution to the long-debated issue of burnout and wellness during residency training.

Author Information

Dr. Lefebvre is a resident physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Lefebvre, Department of Emergency Medicine, 1G1.50 Walter Mackenzie Centre, 8440 112 St., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2B7; telephone: (780) 407-8860; fax: (780) 407-3314; e-mail:

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges