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Restoring Faculty Vitality in Academic Medicine When Burnout Threatens

Shah Darshana T. PhD; Williams, Valerie N. PhD, MPA; Thorndyke, Luanne E. MD; Marsh, E. Eugene MD; Sonnino, Roberta E. MD; Block, Steven M. MB BCh; Viggiano, Thomas R. MD
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002013
Perspective: PDF Only

Increasing rates of burnout—with accompanying stress and lack of engagement—among faculty, residents, students, and practicing physicians have caused alarm in academic medicine. Central to the debate among academic medicine’s stakeholders are oft-competing issues of social accountability; cost containment; effectiveness of academic medicine’s institutions; faculty recruitment, retention, and satisfaction; increasing expectations for faculty; and mission-based productivity.

The authors propose that understanding and fostering what contributes to faculty and institutional vitality is central to preventing burnout during times of change. They first look at faculty vitality and how it is threatened by burnout, to provide a framework for a greater understanding of faculty well-being. Then they draw on higher education literature to determine how vitality is defined in academic settings and what factors affect faculty vitality within the context of academic medicine. Next, they propose a model to explain and examine faculty vitality in academic medicine, followed by a discussion of the need for a greater understanding of faculty vitality. Finally, the authors offer conclusions and propose future directions to promote faculty vitality.

The authors encourage institutional decision makers and other stakeholders to focus particular attention on the evolving expectations for faculty, the risk of extensive faculty burnout, and the opportunity to reduce burnout by improving the vitality and resilience of these talented and crucial contributors. Faculty vitality, as defined by the institution, has a critical role in ensuring future institutional successes and the capacity for faculty to thrive in a complex health care economy.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Correspondence should be addressed to Darshana T. Shah, Office of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development, Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, Huntington, WV 25526; telephone: (304) 691-8639; e-mail:

© 2017 by the Association of American Medical Colleges