About the Program

The Well-Being of US Physicians

Unfortunately, burnout, stress and work-overload have become a pervasive problem among health care providers in the United States. Large national studies suggest that nearly half of physicians and nurses in the U.S. experience professional burnout, a syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (treating people like objects) and a low sense of meaning and purpose in work. Extensive evidence now demonstrates that burnout and distress undermine not only commitment and dedication among health care providers, but also erode professionalism, reduce quality of care and contribute to medical errors. Burnout also contributes to job turnover, fewer work hours (e.g., reducing full-time employees) and reductions in discretionary effort.

In addition to the studies demonstrating the adverse effects of care provider distress, an emerging body of evidence has found positive outcomes associated with high well-being. For example, physicians and nurses who have high mental quality of life and a sense of meaning in their work demonstrate greater empathy, engagement and discretionary effort.

These facts illustrate that physicians and nurses work in a profession at high risk for occupational distress and burnout. Physician well-being is important to both patients and the physicians themselves. Indeed, physician well-being is crucial to the health of our entire system of medical care delivery. Health care organizations have a strategic interest in cultivating an environment that both immunizes against distress and promotes resilience over the course of a career. The challenge for the leaders of these organizations is that there is limited evidence regarding what organizational characteristics help physicians and nurses thrive, and therefore inform strategic resource allocation. The Mayo Department of Medicine Program on Physician Well-being was created precisely to develop such evidence.

History of the Program on Physician Well-Being

The Mayo Clinic Department of Medicine created the Program on Physician Well-being in June of 2007. The purpose of this program is to establish the Mayo Clinic as a recognized leader in the promotion of physician well-being through research, education and development of wellness promotion programs that foster physician satisfaction and performance. The Program on Physician Well-being is a multidisciplinary endeavor drawing on the expertise of physicians from multiple specialties, including internal medicine, Psychiatry and Psychology, Health Sciences Research and experts in quality of life research.

The Program is an ambitious undertaking that evaluates the entire spectrum of personal, professional and organizational factors influencing physician well-being, satisfaction and productivity. The purpose is to frame and test hypotheses of specific organizational and personal characteristics/interventions that can be modified to help physicians thrive. Effective interventions are then implemented by Department leadership in accord with strategic priorities. These efforts are intended to make the Mayo Clinic a learning organization that cultivates an environment where physicians flourish. It is intended that these efforts will also allow staff to view their work not only as a place of energy expenditure but also a source of energy renewal.

The Program's central aim is to provide the evidence base for Mayo leaders to make strategic decisions and efficiently allocate resources to optimize physician well-being and performance. The program is not intended to provide individual, one-on-one counseling for physicians who are dealing with depression, anger or substance abuse issues.