How's Your Well-Being Doc?

The healthcare industry is beginning to realize the scope of its burnout problem. A new study offers some tips on how to foster well-being among physicians and other healthcare workers.

“No one, who continues to add something to the material, intellectual, and moral well-being of the place in which they live, is left long without proper reward.”

—Booker T. Washington

The public picture that has emerged of today’s physician isn’t pretty. I refer you to the disturbing words of Dr. Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post’s prophetic and popular columnist.

He, the winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a Harvard Medical School graduate, recently wrote about doctor’s attitudes. They have “a deep disappointment, almost demoralization, with what medical practice had become … brought on by an incessant interference with their work, a deep erosion of their autonomy and authority.”

Doctoring is something that was never mean to be easy—life and death matters shouldn’t be—my physician-dad frequently explained to me. And it’s not okay for doctors to hate the process, but still love the patient.

America’s physicians must find a deeper well-being. They’re too important to be left resigned to a lifetime of professional unhappiness. But it’s not an easy thing to find. How can an always talented, yet currently troubled profession evolve?

Gallup and Healthways believe they have come up with a way to measure well-being. A yardstick that today’s physicians must eagerly employ. They are out with a new report, Often Ignored: Healthcare Employees' Well-Being.

The report’s fundamental point is that “healthcare workers must be able to lead patients by example. The problem is, these very workers are notorious for neglecting their own care and not taking time for their own well-being.” To help, they created a “well-being index.”

As part of my own personal hunt for well-being, I like to bring along with me the doctor’s cause. And these five points do make sense. The five essential elements of well-being (followed by their official explanations and my own doctor-centric observations) are:

Purpose: “Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals.” Come on, you’re a doctor for goodness sake.

Social: “Having supportive relationships and love in your life.” A daily lifesaver can easily win lasting friendships, I saw it.

Financial: “Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.” The average doctor makes over $200,000 per year. Learn to get by.

Community: “Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community.” Indentifying intelligence, dedication, sacrifice and success in others is a distinctive physician trait.

Physical: “Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.” No one understands this issue better than doctors. Take care of it.