Editor's note: The 2017 AAP National Conference & Exhibition will take place from Sept. 16-19 in Chicago.
When you open the exam room door and see a worn-out parent, you remind her that she needs to take care of herself in order to take care of her children. When a stressed-out teen presents to your office, you advise him to get adequate sleep, exercise and eat right.
But are you following your own advice?
If not, consider attending a session titled “Physician Health and Wellness: Coping Skills for the Busy Clinician” led by Hilary McClafferty, MD, FAAP, immediate past chair of the AAP Section on Integrative Medicine. The seminar will be held from 2:00-3:30 pm Saturday (S1112) in Room W183 C of McCormick Place West Building and again from 8:30-10:00 am Sunday (S2060) in Room W178 B.
By nature, those drawn to pediatric practice are highly giving and compassionate people who don’t want to let anyone down, Dr. MClafferty said. Sometimes, however, pediatricians end up neglecting their own well-being.
“It’s not effective to work from a compromised and burned out state,” she said. “To be most effective, you need to be in good health mentally and physically.”
Research is confirming that burnout is a big problem among medical professionals. A 2014 survey showed that 54% of physicians reported at least one symptom of burnout, and burnout rates topped 60% in some specialties. Furthermore, an estimated 300-400 physicians a year commit suicide.
“I feel a real sense of urgency about this topic because as a physician yourself, you have insight into the distress that many colleagues are feeling,” said Dr. McClafferty, associate professor, fellowship co-director and director of Pediatric Integrative Medicine in Residency at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
One of her main goals for the session is to normalize the idea that self-care is important and acceptable in the medical world. “That will hopefully help change the overarching culture in medicine where this unrealistic endurance has become the norm,” she said.
Stress can present in a variety of ways. Some people experience physical symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches and stomach upset. Emotional manifestations include losing one’s temper, being unable to focus and losing access to memories that can help with problem-solving.
During the session, attendees will begin to learn to identify their own triggers and symptoms of stress.
“My goal is to help people turn the lens on themselves in a safe, supported environment where they can pause and have some time for self-reflection,” Dr. McClafferty said.
Finally, she will introduce a buffet of evidence-based options that attendees will be able to practice, including breath work, autogenics, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, self-hypnosis and mindfulness.
“The research around mindfulness in medicine is moving forward quickly,” she said. Studies have shown that mindfulness is associated with reduction in burnout measures and depression as well as improvement in quality of life, work satisfaction and patient interaction.
Dr. MClafferty’s passion for physician health and wellness stems from her own experience with burnout.
“I appreciate how it can show up in your work and family life and how important it is to recognize it and address it and know it is treatable,” she said. “I want my colleagues to know that there are many approaches that can be undertaken successfully that can help themselves prevent or move out of a period of burnout.”
Follow Dr. McClafferty on Twitter @hmclaffertyMD.
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