“I am a firm believer that medical schools need to create curricular interventions to help students develop the skills,” said Dr. Haramati. As part of the course at Georgetown, groups of students and faculty meet weekly to discuss their challenges. “They begin to realize they aren’t alone, and that they can begin to get over the discomfort of studying all the time to be successful.”
Explore this issue:August 2018
The program gives students necessary interventions that makes self-care easier to implement. “We aren’t taking away stressors; we are giving them the tools at hand,” said Dr. Haramati. “We aren’t babying students; we’re inoculating them with a vaccine that gives them tools, permission, and role models, so they can approach their careers and deal with life and death on a daily basis.”
What Is Unique to Medical Students and Residents?
What’s going on at the preclinical education level? For people used to being academic superstars in college, it can be challenging to get to medical school and realize that everyone around them is also a top-performing student. “The level of responsibility in our culture is jam-packed, and people find they are not necessarily at the top any more,” said Dr. Cotton. “It’s a pressure cooker, and often a very stressful learning environment.”
How Faculty Can Help
With generational shifts, faculty are more in tune with trainee wellness, where the topic wasn’t discussed 20 years ago, said Peter M. Vila, MD, MSPH, chief resident in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., the immediate past chair of the AAO-HNS section for residents and fellows (SRF). “There’s a cultural difference in that the Baby Boomers generally don’t talk about difficult things; they stoically get through them and hold it in, and it’s gotten away from that,” said Dr. Vila. “The next generation of faculty realizes it’s OK to get stressed out, but more importantly, it’s OK to talk about it.” He cited his resident advisor Craig Buchman, MD, as a model of resiliency. “He has shown that you can still be a fantastic leader and be a reasonable person and not exude stress on anyone else, and still function at a high level,” Vila said. “He’s an incredible role model to shoot for.” This is an example of what Dr. Haramati describes as faculty helping through modeling desired behavior.
All faculty should be aware that burnout is an issue, said Dr. Lawlor. “The more that faculty become familiar with it, the more they can check on residents, the better.” While in fellowship at Harvard/Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. Lawlor said that checking in with trainees was part of the program director’s responsibility. “That person was very good at asking if I was enjoying myself, how was my family, and knowing he was thinking about me made me feel supported,” she said.