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New Interprofessional Wellbeing Course Adds to Health Sciences Offerings

Physician well-being requires introspection, openness and a plan, according to Mari Ricker, MD, University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and director of the Integrative Medicine in Residency Program at the UArizona Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine.

Dr. Ricker and her colleagues at the Weil Center developed trainings that guide students and clinicians in assessing their job and life stress, identifying changes to ease it, and managing through what they can’t – or to find another position.

“Unfortunately, we're seeing a lot of the last option in medicine today,” she said. “They're saying 20% of the workforce is going to leave. That really struck home with me, because one component of burnout and well-being is this concept of ‘moral injury’ – of wanting to take care of people in a certain way and being unable to do so because of the system you're in or a disconnect in values. That's become even more challenging in the pandemic.”

Dr. Ricker, former director of the college’s Resident-Fellow Wellbeing Program, and Patricia Lebensohn, MD, professor in the college’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, created the center’s first physician well-being short course in 2014 to give clinicians tools to better understand and manage their stress.

Medical students helped update and expand the course in 2019 to tailor it more to their needs, Dr. Ricker said.

This fall, Drs. Ricker and Lebensohn also will teach a new course called Healthcare Professional Wellbeing (MED 301) as part of the college’s launch of its Bachelor of Science in Medicine (BSM) degree program. It complements the center’s Interprofessional Healthcare Wellbeing course and is open to students across Health Sciences.

“We're going to use that same structure to go over each of those foundational areas, teach the group and give them an opportunity to flesh them out. And then we’ll have a discussion around each of those things,” Dr. Ricker said.

The foundational areas affecting well-being – personal resilience, organizational culture and operational efficiency – address not just the workplace but the broader bureaucracies that govern them, whether that’s corporate, insurance or government policies, she added. Each can add or subtract from stress.

The course also ties into the center’s Integrative Health and Wellness Coaching principles as well as its My Wellness Coach app to help you set specific goals to improve in different areas, she said.

“In my role at the Center for Integrative Medicine, we've been thinking and talking about this for a long time,” Dr. Ricker said. “A lot of our research is based around trying to create resources for people to take care of themselves. Still, you can’t meditate yourself out of a broken system. I think personal resiliency is important, but we have to look at the other two parts of the system, too. If you don’t, you’re going to be left behind.”