There can be a perception that burnout is because the individual physician is not resilient enough. As if we only did a little more exercise or meditated a bit more then all of these problems would go away. This ignores the years of training where we become masters of resiliency. Good studies show that on average physicians are significantly more resilient than the general population. When you measure physician resilience with a tool called the Brief Resilience Score, which has an 8-point scale, if you isolate those physicians with maximum resilience the rate of burnout is still 30%. (West CP, Dyrbye LN, Sinsky C, et al. Resilience and Burnout Among Physicians and the General US Working Population. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(7):e209385. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.9385) So even the most resilient among us are still very suspectable to burnout. This is not a personal issue; this is a systemic issue.
That being said, there are steps that we can all take to improve our own wellness and health that we are in direct control of. Wellness can be organized into 4 domains:
The physical domain is probably the most concrete to improve on. Basic actions can improve your physical wellness include 7-9 hours of sleep, healthy eating habits, adequate physical activity, and minimizing or managing acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries. The 2 papers linked below give more detailed rationale and recommendation for surgeon wellness. Both papers are written by surgeons for surgeons.
- Smith JM, Boe EA, Will R. Physician Wellness in Orthopedic Surgery: Challenges and Solutions. Orthop Clin North Am. 2021 Jan;52(1):41-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ocl.2020.08.004. Epub 2020 Oct 27. PMID: 33222983. This paper details recommendations for surgeon wellness in all 4 domains.
- Maddaus M. The Resilience Bank Account: Skills for Optimal Performance. Ann Thorac Surg. 2020 Jan;109(1):18-25. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2019.07.063. Epub 2019 Sep 10. PMID: 31518588. This paper provides a structure to think about surgeon wellness and how individual surgeons can take steps to improve their own wellness.