Updated: Nov 19, 2018
When it comes to the burnout crisis facing physicians, and in turn our healthcare system, one of the potential system-related factors that can make a difference is peer support. How many of you've had an experience during training and/or in practice where you felt unsupported by leadership and/or colleagues? Unfortunately, most of us would raise our hands. Conversely, how often do you feel supported, and what does that support translate into - a desire to help another colleague, open up about struggles and concerns, and/or motivation to help the 'team'? It truly matters to feel supported by people that we identify with and work with.
In a recent NEJM Catalyst article Combating Clinician Burnout With Community-Building, they discuss the concept of community building and peer support as a way of enhancing an individual physician's ability to be vulnerable and authentic. If you feel connected to the people you work with, it may be more feasible to turn to them for support when a college complaint arises, your spouse has walked out, or you're facing a health crisis. In these moments, knowing that you can connect with someone who shares some of your values and life experience can be pivotal in how you see it through.
We know the feeling of working in a group where there's an unspoken hierarchical structure and you're always dancing around who your allies and foes are. A system like this leaves you lacking trust and little allegiance to seeing the "we" through the hard times. We all play a part in a culture like this. We see how it can change us and we start to use survival techniques instead of searching for solutions.
We aren't suggesting that a workplace needs to have regular 'love-ins' to show a sense of community. Many of us have experienced that the very people that challenge us can be the ones we trust because they see us and believe in us. If we can create a culture that allows us to show up as we are, we can in turn allow others to show up as they are - obstacles seem smaller and showing up to work becomes more tolerable.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path." ~ Brené Brown, Daring Greatly