Across the health care industry, we are faced with the ongoing challenges of a changing labor market, employee burnout, and the struggle to maintain wellbeing and positive mental health.
In our personal lives, it is critically important now that we pause and exercise the patience that it takes to slow down, self-assess, and practice self-care. Burnout is all too common in health care, but exponentially so now. Many physicians and other care providers feel compelled to leave medicine. Our oath to help people and do no harm starts with ourselves, to ensure we are equipped, able, and in the right frame of mind to care for others.
During a time when we need it the most, many of us are experiencing impatience, as we have long-awaited the end of the pandemic. As providers in a complex health care environment, our patience can be tested in many ways. But patience and equanimity can so often provide the calming force that our patients and families need, particularly when they are vulnerable, scared, or anxious. Positivity and calmness, combined with direct and transparent communications, can often improve a patient’s perceptions and potentially even their health outcomes.
In our challenging and sometimes chaotic health care system, patience can also go a long way with colleagues and support staff who are experiencing high stress, overburden of work, and struggles with work-life balance. A brief check-in to see how others are feeling can make a world of difference on the front lines. I have personally experienced the gratitude and appreciation of our front-line staff for just being listened to and heard, with empathy and compassion.
The past two years have been nothing short of exhausting, but I remain hopeful. If we are vigilant about our mental health self-care, we can avoid burnout and support each other. We are at our best for others when we have patience with ourselves.
Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D.
Dean, U-M Medical School
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Michigan
CEO, Michigan Medicine
Leisa Thompson Photography