Physician burnout, especially among family doctors who often labor long hours with little support, is a major problem in the United States, where it is contributing to a growing nationwide shortage of practitioners.
St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) has launched an innovative residency program to help stop burnout before it happens. The new program promotes “lifestyle medicine” not only for patients, but also for doctors themselves.
Introduced by Alan Remde, MD, director of research and curriculum, the program aims to improve patient care by way of addressing providers’ own health and satisfaction.
Incoming family medicine residents are taught a practice-what-you-preach approach to communication, stress management, and healthy eating and exercise, as well as other self-care techniques.
“With the burnout rate among physicians at about 40 percent, and the high incidence of depression and suicide among them, it’s critical to help residents develop skills to take better care of themselves throughout their careers,” said Remde, who joined SLUHN in 2018. He honed integrative medicine skills during a fellowship from 2013 to 2015.
Traditional physician training rarely provides in-depth content on nutrition, exercise or stress management. But in St. Luke’s family medicine program, new doctors now learn to lead by example while coaching their patients on how to change ingrained behaviors that can lead to and worsen chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, COPD and cardiovascular disease.
“A large proportion of mortality and morbidity in the US population is attributable to unhealthy lifestyle decisions,” Remde said. “These can be modified by patients, but they need to learn the proper skills, like reading food labels, cooking healthy meals, practicing a mindfulness approach to life and finding ways to manage stress.”
The residents design and conduct research studies around these issues, to measure process and outcomes of these efforts, with the intent of improving outcomes for both provider and patient.
“The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but our healthcare model for chronic disease is no longer working for doctors or patients,” Remde said. “Clearly, it’s time to develop a new model that starts with the provider.”
Note: This local health news is brought to you in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network.