CMS launches toolkit of wellness strategies for busy physicians

by Kate Alfano, CMS contributing writer

Wellness toolkit launch

Chad Morris, PhD, left, and Cindy Morris, PsyD, of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Behavioral Health and Wellness Program, present “DIMENSIONS: Work and Well-Being Toolkit for Physicians,” developed in partnership with CMS.

The Colorado Medical Society – in partnership with the Behavioral Health and Wellness Program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus – has launched a wellness toolkit for physicians. The toolkit addresses eight dimensions of wellness with a focus on reducing stress and burnout. CMS encourages all Colorado physicians and physician organizations to use and distribute this free resource widely to promote the health of all Colorado physicians.

In April 2011, CMS conducted an all-member morale survey that revealed only half of physician members felt that they were able to live a healthy lifestyle with regard to exercise and diet. Even fewer were satisfied with their ability to find time to relax through activities like yoga or reading. Numerous studies correlate physician wellness with increased patient safety, making declining wellness in the physician population a critical concern for patients.

“While physicians generally possess knowledge about healthy living, this knowledge does not always translate into practicing self-care,” said Doris C. Gundersen, MD, chair of the CMS Expert Panel on Wellness. Approximately 50 percent of physicians report some symptoms of burnout. “Physicians routinely recognize symptoms of burnout and stress in patients, family members and friends, but they often fail to recognize such symptoms in themselves.”

“You have characteristics that make you very successful,” said Chad Morris, PhD, director of the Behavioral Health and Wellness Program. “You know about delayed gratification. You know about perseverance. It’s become so ingrained in who we are and what we do that we push forward often at the cost of our own physical wellbeing, our own mental wellbeing, our own family life. We’re often the first in the office, first not to take a lunch break and the last to leave the office.”

“At some point, all those traits have led us to become successful but we’re trying to figure out where you hit that peak, and how you recognize when you’ve crossed over the peak and you’re getting into a bad situation,” Morris said. “That’s part of what this toolkit is really about.”

“DIMENSIONS: Work and Well-Being Toolkit for Physicians” is a low-burden tool for measuring readiness to change to achieve wellness, providing step-by-step instructions for developing skills to assess one’s wellness, evidence-based strategies for improving wellness, and suggestions for maintaining wellness.

The BHWP staff recognizes that physicians are a very diverse group in all states of wellness and they worked hard to create a resource for physicians across the whole spectrum, said Cindy Morris, PsyD, clinical director for the Behavioral Health and Wellness Program. The toolkit contains a variety of protective practices physicians can integrate into a daily routine to not only prevent burnout but also create more fulfilling professional and personal lives. Whether time permits five minutes or an hour, the toolkit offers strategies to improve wellness that can easily be integrated into the busiest physician’s day.

“Now is the time for physicians to make their own health a priority,” Gunderson said. “In doing so, they are more equipped to meet the needs of their patients and more likely to experience greater career satisfaction.”

Categories: Communications, Colorado Medicine, Initiatives, Physician Wellness