We're social beings and community matters. What do you think of when you think of community? We like the dictionary definition: "A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals." Some may substitute the word 'tribe' for community, but it really is the feeling you have when you're part of a group, and that group can even be just one other person.
When it comes to physician burnout, we've mentioned this idea of community before. The loss of community is a known contributor to the problem we're seeing with burnout today. In a recent article in the Annals of Family Medicine titled, Professional Loneliness and the Loss of the Doctors’ Dining Room, the author Dr. Frey talks about the loss of the professional medical community in large part due to the imposed structural changes such as the loss of dining rooms. Yes, these did exist, as did doctor's lounges more recently.
In the article, Frey says, "Not valuing time with other physicians or allowing for informal conversations leads to a soulless efficiency and professional isolation that drains physicians of our ability to help ourselves, help each other, and help patients." If we all work in silos, it's in fact harder to be connected to the whole or feel part of the workplace culture. It was encouraging to see some of the comments outlining strides their organizations have made to create gathering areas for food and community.
Another article that has recently gained a lot of attention was by Dr. Robson in the Medical Journal of Australia titled Learn from Me: Speak Out, Seek Help, Get Treatment. We urge you to read the article, and then read comment #30. To give you a quick snapshot, Dr. Robson speaks about his experience as an intern 30 years ago, how he came very close to killing himself, until a colleague rapped on the door he was in. That colleague is the author of comment #30. Chills, yes. Tears, absolutely.
Community existed even when Dr. Robson didn't see it, they cared about him. He was part of their community, and in turn, his community saved his life. Community is part of the answer we're searching for and need.
We'll leave it at that.
“We don't heal in isolation, but in community.” ~ S. Kelley Harrell