The Washington University Division of Dermatology is committed to maintaining the emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of its residents. We recognize that all physicians are at risk of burnout and depression, which adversely affects providers and the patients we care for. We have made it our duty to combat burnout and ensure we foster positive lifelong habits within our program.
Each academic year, the chief residents appoint a resident wellness champion (Dr. James Ko for the 2020-2021 academic year). The resident wellness chair acts as a liaison between dermatology residents and faculty to promote wellness events, maintain an ongoing dialogue regarding physician well-being. The resident wellness chair also serves as the GME Wellness Champion representative for dermatology.
In addition, we have an appointed faculty wellness champion (Dr. Paetra Ruddy for the 2020-2021 academic year). The faculty member will be a supervisor and ally for the residents to communicate with should resident wellness issues arise. The faculty leader will also serve as the GME Wellness Faculty Advisor representative for dermatology. Dr. Ruddy also serves as our residency program ombudsperson and is available to discuss sensitive issues in a safe, confidential environment.
During the academic year, the faculty wellness leader gives a formal presentation addressing the features and incidence of physician burnout, contributing factors and healthy coping mechanisms. There are also discussions of the symptoms and warning signs of substance abuse, depression, and suicidality. Quarterly resident town hall-style meetings are held with program leadership to address additional concerns within the program that may affect resident well-being.
We have also partnered with the Wellness Connection program run through the Washington University Human Resources Department. This program provides opportunities and resources for physicians to engage in physical and emotional wellness. An employee wellness consultant has been appointed to work with the WUSTL dermatology residents to lead an annual mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) session.
Additionally, there are 3-4 career development sessions each year to address professional identity, leadership and professional skills, and finding meaning in work throughout residency and beyond.
The resident wellness champion organizes events throughout the year that promote well-being and camaraderie amongst the residents. Examples of prior events include meditation sessions, yoga events, museum outings, happy hours, and resident dinners.
Mentoring and ‘derm families’
Upon starting residency, each resident is assigned to a ‘derm family’ consisting of PGY2, PGY3, and PGY4 residents and a faculty member. This family will be maintained throughout all three years of residency to serve as a support system and source of connection. Residents will be able to seek advice on studying, academic pursuits, as well as personal dilemmas or feelings of burnout. Each resident group will be reminded to check in with each other and their faculty mentor by the chief residents on a quarterly basis. Fellows within the Division of Dermatology (dermatopathology, pediatric dermatology, and micrographic surgery and dermatologic oncology) will also be included in these groups.
Residents are encouraged to complete the Mayo Well-Being Index at least quarterly, allowing for residents to monitor their own feelings in a confidential manner throughout the year. Residents who notice concerning trends in their burnout level will be encouraged to reach out to the wellness champion and/or program leadership, or to seek help via institutional resources.