Creating a Physician Wellness Program With Concrete Benefits

The idea of wellness, and how to improve it amongst emergency physicians, is incredibly segregated across the nation. An entire industry has arisen and innumerable lectures are available that suggest how emergency physicians might improve, cultivate, or otherwise restore wellness to their lives.
As a member of the US Acute Care Solutions Wellness Committee, which reports up to our National Clinical Governance Board, we also have had these discussions. The problem is not just that ideas about how to improve wellness diverge so widely, it’s that these discussions so often revert to worn-out platitudes about resilience and burnout and how to combat one and strengthen the other.

Frankly, a lot of the discussion surrounding resilience simply doesn’t resonate when we have a bunch of physicians working numerous 12-hour shifts in a row at difficult-to-staff sites. At USACS, we’ve had our own false starts about how best to support our physicians. Last year, we created a quarterly “Wellness Challenge,” focusing on four core aspects of wellness: emotional, physical, social, and financial. We encouraged sites throughout the country to come up with their own ideas based around one theme each quarter, and share what they did on social media.

Success was mixed: while the challenges served to heighten awareness about different aspects of wellness, and while many departments jumped gung-ho into organizing activities (the evidence is on our Facebook page from last year), many did not. And the idea of the challenge itself veered a little too closely to exactly the kind of hollow-sounding initiative that lead some of us to roll our eyes as we head into our next overnight.

This year, the Wellness Committee is focusing on how to highlight the concrete benefits that USACS provides to our clinicians. One of them is our Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides professional assistance and consultation to any of our clinicians or support staff who may be experiencing a personal crisis, whether that is related to depression, an impending divorce, or drug or alcohol issues. Importantly, this consultation is 100% confidential and non-discoverable. This allows someone who may be experiencing a serious crisis in their personal life to get support without fear that it will expose them to liability in connection to some unrelated future event. Not even USACS will know about it.

For USACS clinicians and support staff, there is a phone number to call to access help immediately. I’ve personally given it a test-run and they are fast and helpful on the phone. If you need help with something, anything, there is a national network of professionals available who can address personal or family issues, substance abuse, anger or stress, and other emotional health or well-being issues.

Our goal is to start talking about wellness in a different way. We want to give our clinicians and support staff clear and concrete support, and make you aware of it through posts like this one. Perhaps then, as a company, we can lead on wellness issues just as we have in many other realms.