In a medical field rife with time pressures, competing interests and so much stress that burnout can seem inevitable, working in an environment that encourages self-care and supports team functioning can make a world of difference for the well-being of today’s health care practitioners. It’s a tenuous reality that led Lisa Merlo Greene, PhD, director of wellness programs for the UF College of Medicine, to create the first Celebrating Wellness week, held Feb. 11-17.
Doctor Gator asked Merlo Greene about the necessity and benefits of wellness programming for those in all stages of their medical training or careers.
Doctor Gator: Why is wellness programming so vital for today’s medical practitioners?
Merlo Greene: These days, health care providers are expected to know more than ever before, to work effectively within interdisciplinary teams, to see more patients in less time, to complete huge amounts of paperwork and to maintain excellent customer service at all times. Similarly, those pursuing careers in science are competing for decreasing grant funding while being expected to make new discoveries and disseminate their findings through presentation and publication in the most prestigious outlets. As a result, rates of burnout continue to increase, which can negatively affect patient care, scientific productivity and personal well-being. Institutional wellness programming is a necessary first step to lay the foundation for a culture of wellness that supports the faculty, staff and trainees in their professional development and encourages them to function at their best.
Doctor Gator: How can a culture of wellness be created within an academic health care network?
Merlo Greene: Professional fulfillment is most likely to result when doing meaningful work in an environment that supports you to give your best effort without burning out. This requires a focus on well-being by the individual, their team and the institution itself. A culture of wellness can be cultivated when the team members use productive communication strategies and express gratitude. Efficiency of practice is improved by learning strategies that help you work smarter rather than harder. And personal resilience can be improved through self care strategies like eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, practicing mindfulness and self-compassion, as well as through seeking help from others when needed.
Doctor Gator: What’s the next step for wellness programming at the UF College of Medicine?
Merlo Greene: I hope to expand the reach of the programming from the Celebrating Wellness week by working with departments, clinics and other units to plan events that will work for their teams. In addition, I plan to use the results of the recently completed faculty needs assessment to develop new programs and initiatives that were identified as most important in promoting a culture of wellness. I will be working with the GME Wellness Committee to improve resources and programming for house staff, and I will continue working with the Office of Medical Education and the Office of Student Counseling and Professional Development to better support our medical, physician assistant and graduate students as well.
This story originally ran in the Summer 2019 issue of the Doctor Gator newsletter.