May 4th, 2022
Insights from the AAFP Physician Health and Well-Being Conference
Physician well-being has long been an issue in all medical fields, but especially in primary care — the concept of well-being is to heal the healers. Right now, this is especially important to those who have are burdened with burnout and the COVID-19 pandemic. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the AAFP Physician Health and Well-Being Conference. It was a great experience. At the conference, physicians engaged at various workshops throughout the day to expand their ideas and to learn about wellness. Interactions at these workshops with wonderful physicians at different levels of their careers made me reflect on my own health and well-being. Here’s what I learned:
- Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
This is much easier said than done, especially during residency. The conference started each day with optional morning group walk, run, or yoga session. As a family medicine resident, I emphasize the importance of exercise all day long. However, how many residents exercise daily? I know if I have to choose between sleep or exercise, I pick sleep over exercise any day! Although it can be a challenge to make time for exercise during your busy schedule, it is important to make time for your own self-care and well-being. You don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment. It can be something as simple going for a walk or going up and down the stairs at the hospital multiple times during your downtime.
- Everyday Mindfulness
Our words are powerful. Shifting our thoughts to something positive can make a huge difference. Something that I learned during the conference is to use “yes, and …” instead of “but, I ….” Although we often disagree with others, a simple change in two words can change a dreaded conversation into positive, meaningful one.
Another great tool to practice mindfulness is “catching” people doing well. Acknowledge and compliment them. This can truly uplift someone. The perfect example was mentioned in a previous NEJM Journal Watch blog post.
Gratitude journaling has been shown to decrease depression and increase happiness. Everyday, write down 3 things that you are grateful for that day — but you cannot repeat them! Read it a year from now, and you’ll be surprised by how wonderful your life truly is.
- Vent! You’re Not Alone!
During one of the workshops, we were asked to share with a small group a moment in our careers that still haunts us. One person on my table shared something that happened with one of his patients during his residency about 30 year earlier. His story gave everyone in the group chills and put tears in their eyes. He had not shared his story prior to that moment.
Residency is a very challenging time in your career. Just remember that you’re not alone. One amazing resource that I discovered during the conference is PeerRxMed. It’s a free peer-supported program, designed to help physicians thrive both personally and professionally. You can connect with fellow physicians via weekly, monthly, and quarterly check-ins through text messages.
The AAFP Physician Health and Well-being Conference is not limited to just Family Medicine, either. Everyone is welcome to attend. I hope you can attend this conference (or one like it) at least once and experience all the great things it has to offer! Until then, prioritize your health and well-being. Just for yourself!