Although many health systems have turned to resilience training as a solution to physician burnout, quality/safety researcher Alan Card, PhD, MPH, argues that such training alone is not enough. In a new essay, Card advocates for "picking the right tool for the job," i.e., selecting between two approaches to burnout based on a more nuanced understanding of the condition. Specifically, he distinguishes between two types of suffering related to burnout: unavoidable occupational suffering, i.e., the psychological stress and grief that are inherent in physicians' work, and avoidable occupational suffering: systems failures that can be prevented, such as overwork, a hostile work environment, or unsafe working conditions. For burnout caused by unavoidable psychological stress, resilience training may be a helpful tool. Burnout caused by systems failure, however, requires improved systems. Engaging physicians in the redesign of such systems will likely promote better mental health, he suggests. Card calls for health care organizations to offer resilience training, as well as peer support and stigma-free mental health treatment, in parallel with efforts to improve systems.
Physician Burnout: Resilience Training is Only Part of the Solution
Alan J. Card, PhD, MPH
University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego, California