September 1990

Healthy Approaches to Physician Stress

Author Affiliations

From The Genesee Hospital and Strong Memorial Hospital, University of Rochester (NY) School of Medicine and Dentistry (Dr Quill); The Johns Hopkins University and Task Force on the Doctor and Patient, Society of General Internal Medicine, Baltimore, Md (Dr Williamson).

Arch Intern Med. 1990;150(9):1857-1861. doi:10.1001/archinte.1990.00390200057011

• Many studies demonstrate that physicians in training and in practice experience considerable distress, with a high incidence of dysfunction and dissatisfaction. Little is known about the strategies employed by practicing physicians who find enjoyment and satisfaction in their work. We conducted an openended survey about how a group of physicians cope with common dilemmas they face today such as mistakes, death, self-care, uncertainty, patient demands, and time demands. We describe the techniques employed by those who felt they were effectively coping. Responses were organized into five general requirements for personal growth: (1) self-awareness, (2) sharing of feelings and responsibilities, (3) self-care, (4) developing a personal philosophy, and (5) nontraditional coping skills of reframing and limit setting. General descriptions of these requirements are followed by tables of specific examples from the survey. The application of these strategies to the dilemmas cited above are presented. These descriptive findings emphasize the need for training programs and governing bodies to incorporate strategies for physicians' personal growth into their priorities. The five basic areas described herein can provide a framework for formal attention to physicians' personal development.

(Arch Intern Med. 1990;150:1857-1861)