Keynote Speaker Asks Pharmacists to List “3 Good Things” to Combat Burnout

The keynote address at the annual conference of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association encouraged pharmacist attendees to combat burnout with a simple daily exercise.

John G. Kuhn Keynote Address, titled “Bite-Sized well-being during Times of Uncertainty,” was delivered by J. Bryan Sexton, PhD, director of the Duke Center for Healthcare Safety and Quality at Duke University Health in Durham, NC.

Dr. Sexton defined burnout as “an impaired ability to experience positive emotion.” He outlined extensive research that has quantified the costs of burnout among healthcare providers. It costs millions of dollars per year and leads to infections, medical errors, lower patient satisfaction, and higher standardized mortality ratios.

Healthcare providers can tell whether they are burned out by reflecting on whether the following statements are true:

  • You try to be everything to everyone.
  • You get to the end of a hard day at work, and feel like you have not made a meaningful difference.
  • You feel like the work you are doing is not recognized.
  • You identify so strongly with work that you lack a reasonable balance between work and your personal life.
  • Your job varies between monotony and chaos.
  • You feel you have little or no control over your work.

“Burnout is contagious, but so is well-being,” Dr. Sexton said, defining as well-being as “the ability to see the good and the bad across situations.”

He offered a simple tool developed at Duke that has been shown to reduce emotional exhaustion and burnout and increase positivity. “3 Good Things” is a simple stress-management technique that asks:

  • What went well today, and what was your role in making it happen?
  • Which one of the following positive emotions best fits how this good thing makes you feel? Amusement, awe, gratitude, inspiration, interest, joy, hope, love, pride, serenity, or other.

The tool can be used by an individual healthcare provider or scaled across healthcare teams or institution. It takes only a few minutes to enroll, then a couple of minutes each day for two weeks. Get started at