• Wellness Program Inspires Confidence, Builds Expertise

    June 5, 2024, Cindy Borgmeyer — Just as the medical students enrolled in the AAFP’s Family Medicine Interest Group Well-being Champion Program sing the praises of that program, family medicine residents participating in the Academy’s Resident Well-being Champion Program tout that program’s benefits.

    person in discussion at table with others listening

    Led by Lauren Brown-Berchtold, M.D., FAAFP, program director of the San Joaquin General Hospital Family Medicine Residency and director of its advanced obstetrics fellowship, and Catherine Pipas, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, professor of community and family medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the Geisel School of Medicine, chair of the AAFP’s Physician Health First initiative, and co-chair of the Academy’s Leading Physician Well-being program, the Resident Well-being Champion program challenges residents to develop and implement workshops designed to build fellow residents’ skills and create a culture of well-being within residencies. Ultimately, the program aims to foster well-being and increase satisfaction in training and future practice.

    As part of their training, the Resident Well-being Champions engage with the national learning community of well-being leaders and create a curriculum of interactive sessions that address physician well-being and associated topics. The full curriculum, which can be used to address the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education mandate to promote resident well-being, includes a facilitator guide, slides and resources for each session. The curriculum package will become available this summer, along with other AAFP well-being resources; sign up to be notified when it’s released.

    AAFP News recently asked two current champions, Kelsey Rice, D.O., and Francesco “Frank” Satriale, M.D., to talk about their time in the program and how it has impacted their perspective on well-being during residency and throughout a physician’s entire career. Here is an edited version of what they shared.

    Kelsey Rice, D.O., is a first-year resident in the Heritage Valley Family Medicine Residency Program in Beaver Falls, Pa., whose primary care interests include burnout prevention, women’s health and obesity medicine. She says she supports her well-being “by spending time with my loving fiancé, reading, and attending trivia nights with my co-residents.” 

    Frank Satriale, M.D., is a second-year resident in the Family and Community Medicine Residency at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey. His interests in primary care include well-being, lifestyle medicine, preventive medicine and environmental health. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, being outdoors, playing pickleball and spending time with his wife.

    Kelsey Rice, D.O.

    What drove you to participate in the Resident Well-being Champion program? 

    KR: I am currently a part of my residency program’s wellness committee, and we are very dedicated to maintaining all of our mental health and well-being while navigating residency. I decided to apply for this program as I felt I needed more resources and information to better serve my co-residents and myself while in training. 

    FS: As a resident in family medicine, I have an interest in general well-being. I started my second year of residency and stepped into the role of co-chair of our wellness task force (known as the "Wellness Warriors"). When the opportunity to join the Well-being Champion program came up, I thought this would be a great way to promote well-being beyond our program, and I decided to apply.

    How did you fit the Resident Well-being Champion program’s requirements into your residency training?

    KR: I was fortunate that my program was flexible in making accommodations for me to attend two conferences, as well as the Resident Well-being Champion program being flexible with my limitations during certain rotations. Otherwise, it took a lot of planning and scheduling but it worked out well!

    FS: Residency training is a busy time; however, in our program, most of our inpatient training happens during our intern year. I was glad to have more outpatient-based rotations this year, which helped to provide time to dedicate to the Well-being Champion program.

    Frank Satriale, M.D.

    Please describe various ways the program has helped shape your views on and approach to physician well-being. For example, has it changed how you define personal well-being? What strategies have you learned to help foster emotional well-being and avert burnout?

    KR: This program has definitely changed how I view my own wellness, my program’s wellness, and overall wellness in the AAFP or residencies in general. Personally, I have learned so much from my colleagues’ presentations as well as working on my own with my partner. Recently, I felt more empowered to set boundaries in my workplace in order to preserve my own mental health! In regards to my own program, I have more ideas to introduce to the committee to better serve my co-residents including new exercises to identify their values, improve their financial wellness, etc. 

    FS: This program has helped me to develop a more complete understanding of the burnout crisis affecting our health care workforce and how to address it. I don’t know that it has changed my definition of personal well-being; however, it has enriched it. Personal well-being necessitates community, physical activity and an honesty with one’s self about the intensity of their workload. I fuel my wellness through exercising regularly, staying connected with friends, and focusing on providing high-value care to my patients while also caring for myself.

    Catch Resident Well-being Champion Session at FMX

    This year’s FMX attendees can get a close-up look at how the Resident Well-being Champion program works when Lauren Brown-Berchtold, M.D., FAAFP, hosts a free train-the-trainer session highlighting the program on Sept. 25 from 8:15 to 11:45 a.m. Four program champions, including Frank Satriale, M.D., will join her as co-presenters.

    How would you characterize the essential elements of a positive residency culture? Have your views changed as you've progressed through the program?

    KR: I believe the essential elements of a positive residency culture would be one that encourages residents to have a life outside of medicine - hobbies, exercising, taking care of their own health by attending their own medical appointments. I feel programs should emphasize wellness days, utilizing all of your vacation, and promoting fun times with each other. Before this Resident Well being Champion program, I was worried at the state of medical education with the rising number of physician suicides and the growing dissatisfaction with residency/pursing a medical career. After being a room with like-minded people and working with attendings who believe a change is necessary, I feel more hopeful that we can change things for the better. 

    FS: A positive residency culture involves listening to their residents. I am fortunate to be in a program that regularly reviews our schedules and protocols, and is very open to resident feedback on how well things are working. We have made several positive changes in the past few years to improve the wellness of our residents, and it has been great to see that and experience it firsthand. Programs may also benefit from having a resident (or group of residents) serve as wellness chair(s). We take one Wednesday evening monthly (“Wellness Wednesdays”) to get together as a program outside of work. We have also celebrated a number of our residents recently with baby showers, and we do a gift exchange at Christmas time.

    What obstacles are physicians likely to encounter when seeking help for mental health concerns? How can these barriers be avoided or overcome? 

    KR: Physicians will most likely worry about facing stigma regarding mental health as well as barriers of finding time or money to do so. The stigma surrounding mental health and seeking help can be lessened with more people acknowledging the benefits, possibly attendings in programs speaking of their own experiences, and in general, a residency program that provides times to seek appointments for medical care/mental health care. 

    FS: Seeking help for mental health concerns can be challenging for physicians, particularly residents. It can be difficult to find time to dedicate to appointments depending on how busy a rotation might be. Programs should allow time within work hours for residents to have their healthcare appointments, and this is actually mandated by the ACGME. Even still, residents may feel guilty for taking time away from patient care or education. It should be built within the culture of a program to allow for a resident to take needed time, and should be encouraged, not looked down on. Though it can be challenging to advocate for ones own well-being amid so many competing demands, it is a major key for resident and program success.

    Lastly, what have been your key takeaways from the program? What are the biggest reasons you would recommend it to fellow residents? 

    KR: My key takeaways from this program are mental well being requires enormous amounts of introspection however can greatly improve your life in all aspects. For residency, advocating for yourself and identifying what is important to you in order to maintain those values can make the overall experience much better. I would recommend this program to my fellow residents who are interested in promoting well being in their own lives, their own program, and advocating for all residents. 

    FS: My key takeaway from this program is that burnout is an issue that we can all contribute to solving. I would highly recommend it to other residents who have an interest in well-being and want to promote it in and beyond their own programs. I hope to make an impact with the work that I have done as a Resident Well-being Champion, and I plan to continue to advocate for physician wellness beyond my time as a resident.