Tarrant County Physician Wellness Program: Addressing Burnout and Promoting Resiliency
by Casey Green, MD
THE TARRANT COUNTY MEDICAL SOCIETY IS launching a new wellness initiative available to medical society members and their families. We recognize the challenges associated with an ever-changing landscape in healthcare exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic that contribute to stress, burnout, and job dissatisfaction.
Modeled on the successful program at Travis County Medical Society, the Tarrant County Medical Society Wellness Program seeks to proactively address those among us who may be struggling. We have a mission to enhance the health of physicians, their families, and the communities in which we all live and work.
Physician burnout, the apparent catalyst to this situation, is considered a psychological response that may be experienced by doctors exposed to chronic situational stressors in the healthcare practice environment. It is often characterized by overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from work, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.1
Physicians experiencing burnout, according to the medical literature, exhibit a wide array of signs, symptoms, and related conditions, including fatigue, loss of empathy, detachment, depression, and suicidal ideation. Nearly 25 percent of physicians surveyed last year were experiencing clinical depression. There were also significantly increased rates of depression among their family members.2
The most cited reasons for burnout include too many bureaucratic tasks, decreasing autonomy, increased work hours, and recent additional contributing factors related to COVID-19. Of those physicians experiencing burnout, more than half report it is strongly affecting their daily life and more than two thirds acknowledge impairments in relationships.2
Physicians often have to deal with difficult and tragic situations and losses. This continued exposure to human suffering can have a significant impact on mental and emotional wellbeing over time that often goes unrecognized.
Burnout is not always related to stressors arising in a work environment or to an individual’s character traits. Family issues, personal and professional relationships, financial pressures, insufficient work-life balance, or other external stressors may also contribute. Efforts aimed at the identification, treatment, or prevention of burnout must, therefore, approach the issue from a broad enough perspective to take all of these factors into account.
Too many physicians are reluctant to seek help for fear that they will be perceived as weak or unfit to practice medicine by their colleagues or employers, or because they assume that seeking such care may have a detrimental effect on their ability to renew or retain their state medical license.
The TCMS Wellness Program has developed relationships with community therapists who work with physicians or their family members to help them back on the path to wellness. These services will be confidential and paid for by this program for the first four sessions for any members or their families.
The goal of this new initiative is to provide information and resources to support physicians and their families in order to encourage and inspire each other to practice physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social wellness. The program is in its final formation steps, and we hope to meet these needs with workshops, mentorship, education, and other activities to promote healing, growth, and resiliency. We are excited about the future and will share more details as the program grows.
You can find more information about how to access the program at www.tcms.org/TMAiMis/Tarrant/Wellness or call 972-449-0762.
1. Maslach, C., Jackson, S.E. (1981). The Measurement of Experienced Burnout. Journal of Occupational Behavior, 2(2):99-113. See also, Maslach C, Jackson SE, Leiter MP. (1996). Maslach Burnout Inventory Manual. 3rded. and Maslach C, et al. (2001). Job Burnout. Annu Rev Psychol, 52:397–422
2. Kane L. ‘I Cry but No One Cares’: Physician Burnout & Depression Report 2023. Medscape. Published January 27, 2023. Available at: https://www.medscape.com/slideshow/2023-lifestyle-burnout-6016058.