Recognizing the nationwide issue of physician burnout and suicide, WakeMed Health and Hospitals saw a need to implement new solutions to promote wellbeing and mental health. In 2022, WakeMed formed a council to focus specifically on these issues and foster a supportive work environment. Ultimately, the council’s goal is to equip physicians with tools for navigating their demanding roles while safeguarding their mental and emotional health.
The council meets monthly to discuss and implement potential solutions to improve physician wellbeing. The council’s impact lies in its collaborative nature, involving team members from across WakeMed’s departments, which allows for a diverse range of perspectives. Members of the council prioritize solutions and feedback directly from physicians to ensure that they effectively address their needs. So far, the council has implemented three initiatives, including the Sidekick Program.
The Sidekick Program began based on feedback from WakeMed physicians, and it drew inspiration from the National Center of Trauma, which used a similar approach for military veterans.
“The Sidekick Program encourages physicians to be mindful of their peers,” said Mary Worthy, MS, LMFT, Director of Clinical Services – WakeMed Mental Health & Well-Being. “It equips physicians with the tools they need to identify signs of burnout in others and how to provide meaningful support.”
The program currently includes nine physician sidekicks who are trained to look out for signs of burnout and distress and provide support and resources. Physicians who have participated in the Sidekick Program provide positive feedback and express appreciation for having the sidekicks as a support system, whether they need to debrief on a traumatic patient outcome, discuss personal struggles or learn how to access a specific well-being resource.
To further build on the success of the Sidekick Program, WakeMed plans to refine initiatives continuously based on feedback from physicians. Additionally, the council will continue building on current initiatives and implementing new ones to address the evolving challenges facing physicians.