The National Wellness Institute, in their framework on Resilience and Thriving, has a tool a physician can use to evaluate levels of stress across six domains: Relationships, Health, Financial, Work and Career, Spiritual and Emotional. The tools available also help the client evaluate reactions to various levels of stress, and help them understand their coping mechanisms, and how to move toward thriving, resilience, and potentiation.
The best tool to identify and prioritize sources of stress and burnout may be a simple coaching conversation. Physicians rarely get focused time to explore their individual needs and desires. Once trust and safety are established with the client, it may be extremely easy for them to explore items that pull them farther and farther from personal meaning and self-care. Once those items are identified, if the client responds well to visual representation of their current situation, the Wheel of Life tool can be used. Many versions of the Wheel of Life can be customized to include specific dimensions of career or home life, that the physician can use to visualize and prioritize the levels of stress across those domains. Doing this simple exercise can help the overwhelmed physician more clearly understand the specific areas where high stress is impacting them the most. The Wheel can also be used as a Wheel of Leadership for Physician Leaders to understand additional stressors presented by their leadership role.
Some questions that can be useful when coaching physicians around burnout and wellness might be:
* What would more wellness look like/feel like in your life?
* What would you be able to do more of?
* What do you need to let go of, or de-prioritize?
* What’s keeping you from connecting to the meaning you desire?
During this process, Mindfulness may well arise as an immensely helpful tool to support the physician client in navigating through daily stressors and exploring new frames of reference toward their goals.
We may always find physicians that are seeking mindfulness as a helpful and immediate tool for coping in stressful situations, but when approached as the first tool as part of a coaching engagement, it could cause the client to react negatively or close down to exploring a path forward.
So, when we are coaching physician clients with burnout and wellness, remember, don’t always lead with mindfulness.
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