COMMENTARY

Healers in Need of Healing Cannot Heal

Herdley O. Paolini, PhD; Mark H. Greenawald, MD

Disclosures

May 20, 2016

In This Article

But Physicians Are Not Victims

Nevertheless, we reject the notion that physicians are victims. Instead, they are often co-creators of this unfortunate reality. They are co-creators by: (1) continuing to accept the "status quo" and expecting that the leadership of our healthcare systems and our political structures will fix the problem; (2) buying into the professional drive that leaves important parts of themselves out of their professional and personal lives; (3) perpetuating a culture of "silent suffering" and denying their own humanity; and (4) ignoring self-care as imperative to calibrating themselves in order to sustain this most meaningful, but most stressful work.

It is therefore not difficult to see how we will fail in our efforts to achieve the triple aim if we do not enlist the power of both formal and informal physician leaders in their clinical leadership and administrative leadership roles. Those physicians already in leadership positions have the opportunity and responsibility to focus attention on physician health and wellness and promoting development of professional identities that integrate biopsychosocial spiritual needs. Their own leadership development must provide them with the skills that will help transform current frames of reference from individualistic to interrelated, from managing others to enlisting mutual collaboration, and from posturing, often driven by insecurities and fears, to risking the power of vulnerability.

Then, and only then, can physicians lead the transformational change of which we are in desperate need. What we are doing now is the equivalent of building a house on sand. It is imperative that we address the issue of physician burnout, not to mention the physicians who are merely in survival mode. We must invest in the formation of leaders with inner capacity that will allow a questioning of long-standing frames of reference that are no longer useful (ie, reactivity, competition, individualistic goals, invulnerability) and create the conditions for a new frame of reference (ie, interdependence, interrelatedness, team work, vulnerability, inspiration, respect).

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