Transdisciplinary Strategies for Physician Wellness: Qualitative Insights from Diverse Fields
While barriers to physician wellness have been well detailed, concrete solutions are lacking.
We looked to professionals across diverse fields whose work requires engagement and interpersonal connection with clients. The goal was to identify effective strategies from non-medical fields that could be applied to preserve physician wellness.
We conducted semi-structured interviews with 30 professionals outside the field of clinical medicine whose work involves fostering effective connections with individuals.
Professionals from diverse professions, including the protective services (e.g., police officer, firefighter), business/finance (e.g., restaurateur, salesperson), management (e.g., CEO, school principal), education, art/design/entertainment (e.g., professional musician, documentary filmmaker), community/social services (e.g., social worker, chaplain), and personal care/services (e.g., massage therapist, yoga instructor).
Interviews covered strategies that professionals use to initiate and maintain relationships, practices that cultivate professional fulfillment and preserve wellness, and techniques that facilitate emotional presence during interactions. Data were coded using an inductive thematic analysis approach.
Professionals identified self-care strategies at both institutional and individual levels that support wellness. Institutional-level strategies include scheduling that allows for self-care, protected time to connect with colleagues, and leadership support for debriefing after traumatic events. Individual strategies include emotionally protective distancing techniques and engagement in a bidirectional exchange that is central to interpersonal connection and professional fulfillment.
In this exploratory study, the purposive sampling technique and single representative per occupation could limit the generalizability of findings.
Across diverse fields, professionals employ common institutional and personal wellness strategies that facilitate meaningful engagement, support collegiality, and encourage processing after intense events. The transdisciplinary nature of these wellness strategies highlights universal underpinnings that support wellbeing in those engaging in people-oriented professions.
KEY WORDSdoctor-patient relationships medical humanities professional burnout physician satisfaction qualitative research
The authors would like to acknowledge the 30 study participants who generously shared their time and insights for this study. We would also like to thank Dani Zionts, who conducted some of the interviews, and Alan Glaseroff, who assisted with study recruitment.
This study was funded by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Postdoctoral fellowship support for Marie Haverfield and Rachel Schwartz was provided by the Palo Alto VA Center for Innovation to Implementation.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Farzad Azimpour is the Chief Medical Officer at MYIA Labs and Health Portfolio Advisor at IDEO. Abraham Verghese receives royalties from Simon and Schuster and Random House publishers and is on the Gilead Health Policy Advisory Board, and the Leigh Speakers Bureau. The other authors report no conflicts of interest.
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