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Michigan Medicine launches effort to make wellness a cultural norm


 

EXPERT ANALYSIS FROM THE TRIOLOGICAL CSM

– Officials at Michigan Medicine have launched an initiative to make optimal health and well-being a norm for its physicians, staff, and learners.

Dr. Carol Bradford, vice dean for academic affairs, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor

Dr. Carol Bradford

“If you look long and hard at your hospitals, health centers, and medical schools, you would find incidences of depression, near-miss suicide, opioid addiction, substance abuse addictions, and suicide,” Carol R. Bradford, MD, said at the Triological Society’s Combined Sections Meeting. “Another component of this is that we all struggle with our work or learning communities where people don’t take care of each other. People don’t treat each other with respect and civility. Promoting a healthy and civil work environment are essential components of a supportive environment.”

According to Dr. Bradford, executive vice dean for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the complexities and stress of the health care environment compromises the well-being of its workforce with a myriad of time-consuming tasks, including navigating electronic records and ever-populating email inboxes. “We are all connected to devices 24/7, and it has become more and more difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance,” Dr. Bradford said. “The more accepted term now is integration, because it’s almost impossible to achieve balance. Burnout and other physical and health problems are the result of all of these challenges.”

In late 2017, she and her colleagues used two different validated survey questionnaires to assess the health of Michigan Medicine faculty physicians. They found that about 40% of faculty members in both clinical and basic science departments met criteria for burnout. The top 10 stressors based on the survey were email, clerical activity, time worked outside of regular hours, workload time pressure, work expectations, insufficient time for meaningful activities, in-basket messages, lack of decisional transparency, inadequate compensation, and too many work hours. The top 10 coping strategies were finding meaning in work, using all vacation time, paying attention to healthy/balanced eating, engaging in exercise, seek personal/professional balance, protecting time away from work, protecting sleep time, using a social support network, nurturing spiritual aspects, and engaging in recreation or hobbies.

Results of the survey prompted development of a task force to examine wellness and civility at Michigan Medicine, and to devise strategies and tactics to conquer these challenges. “The goal is to help all human beings who are suffering in our work environment,” said Dr. Bradford, who is also chief academic officer for Michigan Medicine. “What we learned initially is that there is a bit of an overlap. Some lack of wellness is due to a lack of civility, but there are wellness issues and civility issues that are independent of one another.”

Members of the task force formulated several recommendations, the first being to create a Michigan Medicine Wellness Office. Dr. Bradford is currently negotiating with a finalist to serve as its faculty director. She characterized the office as a “hub and spoke” model that will partner with existing entities, including human resources, the office of medical student education, the program in biological sciences, graduate medical education, the office of health equality and inclusion, the office of clinical affairs, and the office of counseling and workplace resilience. “The idea is to create a strategic wellness plan,” said Dr. Bradford, who is also a professor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery. “One key strategy is to endorse the health and well-being of our faculty, staff, and learners as a core value and cultural norm of Michigan Medicine. In other words, the leadership has to make health and well-being a priority and a value.”

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