[Skip to Navigation]
Invited Commentary
August 2015

Searching for Joy in Residency by Listening to Our Patients

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(8):1269-1270. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.2223

As medical trainees, we have come to appreciate that today’s health care systems can be chaotic, fragmented, and filled with menial administrative tasks—in short, often joyless. Recently, Sinsky et al1 argued that such joylessness is one reason why fewer trainees choose primary care and why seasoned primary care physicians are leaving the field in droves. To re-instill joy, those authors proposed practice transformation—team-based care, pre-visit planning, scribes—to return “healing relationships with patients” to the center of outpatient medicine. These ideas inspired us to ask a similar question: how can we find joy in residency training? Some aspects of residency are joyless: sleep deprivation, difficulty seeing our loved ones, anxiety about knowing enough medicine, and doubts about clinical decisions made in the middle of the night. However, like Sinsky et al1 suggest, we have found healing relationships with patients to be often joyful and always reinvigorating. Cultivating such relationships means developing practical strategies that allow us to listen generously and communicate compassionately despite the many demands on our time.