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Why Faculty Must Promote Their Own Self-Care

Lefebvre, Dennis C. MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31827971b6
Letters to the Editor

Emergency medicine physician, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada;

In Reply: Advances in medical technology, pharmacotherapy, and knowledge translation have created an unprecedented era of rapidly changing, evidence-based medical care. A step behind this outward advancement in medical practice is a new introspective realization that physician health is a key factor in quality patient care. Dr. Rao correctly identifies the need for wellness role models and an atmosphere of physician wellness at the faculty level. Indeed, recent evidence demonstrates that faculty members are not immune to the alarming prevalence of burnout in medicine.1 Furthermore, it has been argued that “students are quick to notice the negative emotions of hostility, indifference, frustration, and impatience that supervisors express—as well as the positive emotions of caring, compassion, and kindness shown toward patients.”2 As such, a culture of wellness at the faculty level is critical for physician health, trainee education, and, ultimately, good medical practice.

However, culture is a difficult thing to change. Dr. Rao highlights a pervasive culture of “workaholism” among physicians, a quality that is dear to some and repulsive to others. In some cases, cultures of “workaholism” may clash with those promoting wellness and work–life balance. This conflict may represent a generation gap in the perceptions of medical professionalism.3 Yet, mounting evidence continues to correlate personal wellness with physician health and improved patient care. I join Dr. Rao in urging residents and faculty alike to understand the importance of self-care, work satisfaction, and personal health in their professional role as physicians.

Dennis C. Lefebvre, MD, PhD

Emergency medicine physician, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada;

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1. Shanafelt TD, Boone S, Tan L, et al. Burnout and satisfaction with work–life balance among US physicians relative to the general U.S. population. Arch Intern Med. 2012:E1–E9 [Epub ahead of print]
2. Shapiro J. Perspective: Does medical education promote professional alexithymia? A call for attending to the emotions of patients and self in medical training. Acad Med. 2011;86:326–332
3. Smith LG. Medical professionalism and the generation gap. Am J Med. 2005;118:439–442
© 2013 Association of American Medical Colleges