Physicians’ mental health and overall well-being directly affect patient care and outcomes. Medical professionals are subjected to heavy workloads and immense pressure to always provide the best care possible. Braithwaite et al. (2017) states that the environment influences and affects medical students and professionals; a poor work environment coupled with demanding workloads act as a catalyst for burnout, which increases mistakes and the likelihood of malpractice. A systematic review published by the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (Nguyen et al., 2021) showed that, on average, 44% of physicians experienced burnout. The effects of burnout on the physician can manifest as increased rates of depression, substance use, reduced work hours, or even quitting the field of medicine. American Addiction Centers confirmed in 2021 that burnout could be an intrinsic part of substance misuse and addiction, and of the 14.8 million Americans who consume illegal drugs, 70% are employed.
As the physician is affected, the patients become exposed to a decreased quality of the medical care they receive. All of this negatively impacts the healthcare system nationwide. Medical professionals dealing with addiction are more likely to cause an accident in the workplace or to neglect patients’ health than those who do not have an addiction. They also become unreliable as they may be distracted on the job or abruptly leave important appointments or surgical procedures to satisfy their addiction.
Patient Education and Counseling published a qualitative study by Fosnot et al. (2021), which iterated that developing professional bonds between medical mentors and peers enhanced patient-physician encounters and fostered physician resilience. The American Medical Association highlighted a prime example of this by examining the transformation of the physician lounge at Enloe Medical Center, Chico, CA, which then reflected a dramatic improvement in the organizational culture and physician well-being. When the impact the lounge had on physician burnout was measured, they found that the overall percentage had decreased.
Dr. Diana Ngyuen, a fellow at the Addiction Training for Health Professionals (ATHP) program, is a second-year Psychiatry resident at the University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine (UIWSOM) and is in training to become an Asylum Evaluator through Evaluation Alliance for Human Rights. She shared with us that Dr. Erica Frank, MD, MPH, who is a Research Consultant at ATHP, has made strides toward improving the experience and facilities of students and physicians at UIWSOM. Dr. Frank spearheaded the installation of lockers, so students were able to safely store any belongings while they were at the hospital. Dr. Ngyuen also highlighted that thanks to Dr. Frank’s dedication, a lounge was created with facilities that allowed for destressing and socialization away from the stressful environment. When speaking to us about the work Dr. Frank had done at UIWSOM, Dr. Ngyuen exclaimed that when she saw the lockers, cafeteria, and ping pong table, she wished that they were available during her time as a student there.