Establishing and Evaluating a Wellness Program for Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellows

Physician burnout is an epidemic, with significant consequences on physician health and associations with poorer-quality patient care and higher costs to the healthcare system. At the American Thoracic Society 2021 International Conference, Taylor Lincoln, MD, from the University of Pittsburgh, shared her center’s experience with a wellness program designed to combat burnout among pulmonary and critical care fellows.

With this wellness intervention, Dr. Lincoln and researchers targeted key contributors to wellness, including stress management, connecting with others, and self-efficacy.

The program included several components designed to address challenges at various levels of training. For example, a little/big sibling program paired first-year with second- or third-year fellows who serve as informational and emotional support, and third-year fellows received one-on-one career coaching. In monthly process groups, a psychiatrist met with first- and second-year fellows to discuss issues related to burnout. Lastly, in an educational committee, class representatives brought challenges to light and participated in fellowship-level decision-making.

The intervention was implemented July 1, 2020, and researchers collected data from 21 pulmonary and critical care fellows who had participated. After 5 months, 64% of fellows were satisfied with the program, 29% were neither satisfied or dissatisfied, and 7% were dissatisfied. Participating fellows said they were most satisfied with the career coaching (89% satisfied or very satisfied) and little/big sibling (83% satisfied or very satisfied) components of the intervention.

Scores on the Maslach Burnout Inventory for General Use also remained stable from pre- to post-intervention.

“This multicomponent intervention was feasible to implement and overall acceptable to fellows,” Dr. Lincoln concluded. “Future directions include continued monitoring of [burnout inventory scores] and qualitative assessment to explore fellow physicians’ perspective on how to best support wellness.