In 2015, the Ada County Medical Society (ACMS) board decided to focus on physician wellbeing based on the emerging needs of their membership. By the end of the following year, ACMS launched its Physician Vitality Program (PVP) to provide free mental health care access as a benefit to its members.
PVP brought together physicians and behavioral health specialists from two different hospitals and their local medical residency programs. Soon, members of the taskforce from competing hospitals worked together to develop similar peer-to-peer support programs for their own medical staff. They also collaborated to create a physician wellbeing series featuring presentations by national leaders, which deepened the impact community-wide. They hosted suicide prevention and gatekeeper trainings for first- and second-year medical students and hospital staff, guiding medical community members on recognizing suicide warning signs.
PVP exemplified how local health care communities can drive commitment to physician wellbeing. In fact, ACMS helped co-author the LifeBridge Physician Wellbeing Toolkit, which is a free step-by-step guide on how to develop a physician wellness program that medical societies can offer to members who might be experiencing burnout, stress or suicidal thoughts.
In addition to supporting the wellbeing of ACMS’s individual members, the organization also wanted the PVP to serve its members’ institutions and employers. To target the system-level issues that drive physician burnout, ACMS joined the AMA’s CHARM Charter on Physician Wellbeing and committed to prioritizing societal and institutional change surrounding physician wellbeing. “It’s not just about individual physicians being more resilient—and it’s not just about organizations changing policies. It’s the entire medical culture and health care industry that needs to be evaluated and transformed,” said Steven Reames, executive director of ACMS.
Because of this initiative, ACMS has seen a sustained level of hope and energy around physician wellbeing from individuals within their network, which keeps expanding. Additionally, the community has experienced a sense of healing, largely due to the emphasis on rebuilding trust and interpersonal relationships.
“Healing the community after loss and tragedy is relationship driven; any program or initiative that intends to heal their workforce must create an environment where trust and compassion are at the forefront.”
*Image courtesy of Angelo Roman