SGO Wellness: It’s The Hospital’s Turn to Help | Taylor Turner, MD, MS
As a Duke resident, I heard of the new SGO Wellness Task Force and thought “I could be into this,” and, “Dr. Berchuck is the co-chair, and he might know my name, so maybe I’ve got a chance.” Inside track or not, I have been fortunate to be a part of this great movement within SGO and around the country to study, understand, and improve physician wellness.
The task force is now an official SGO committee, and this coming year will publish a wellness curriculum available to all SGO members; after documenting the pervasiveness of burnout, the field has pivoted to interventions: what helps and what doesn’t, and the systematic contributors to individual burnout. Finding ways to work with your own health care system, large or small, is an important part of wellness. It requires navigating the hallways of administration (murky waters for most of us) but is incredibly rewarding, and allows providers to direct the effort.
My current hospital system already had a wellness committee in place when I arrived, and again for me, was willing to accept volunteers. Working with this group has shown me some key drivers of success.
First, and most obviously, is institutional support. Not tacit approval, but formal recognition, an official charter, and administrative staff. This brings both legitimacy and protection. Our most successful program is a peer-to-peer support network, administered by the Wellness Committee, and staffed by trained physician and APP volunteers. This program is anonymous and operates under the umbrella of the medical staff office, making all communication privileged. The same office supports our other administrative needs. Bringing hospital administrators on board with a wellness initiative can seem overwhelming, but the data is well established, and resources from the National Academy of Medicine, the AMA, and the SGO can steer the conversation. The ongoing pandemic has only brightened the spotlight on burnout and its consequences.
Another key is engaging the right leaders. Our outgoing chief of staff serves as chair of the wellness committee. An automatic assignment requires no volunteering and brings a known entity who can navigate administrative pathways. While this succession plan may not work everywhere, it highlights the need for experienced leaders who know system leverage points and are a familiar face to providers. More often than not, these leaders have already seen the consequences of burnout and are ready to address it directly.
Lastly, you’ll need volunteers, probably starting with yourself! This is the easy part. There are physicians and APPs everywhere who are interested in wellness, and many are already doing the work. My system’s committee has experienced life coaches, mindfulness instructors, and talented lecturers, all working in this field, who are excited to come together and do so at a system level.
Perhaps you’re considering getting involved at your institution. I applaud your interest and wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. The work is deeply rewarding, and there are so many who need your help.
Taylor Turner, MD, MS, is a gynecologic oncologist at St. Luke’s Health System.