Physicians are in need of confidential, safe spaces to discuss feelings of stress, anxiety and burnout. In Nebraska, physicians faced a significant barrier to accessing this type of support: they are one of two states in the country without a formal physician health program.
To fill this gap, the Nebraska Medical Association launched LifeBridge Nebraska, a state-wide, free resource providing peer-to-peer coaching for Nebraska physicians – aimed at supporting physicians wellbeing and mental health.
LifeBridge currently has four local Nebraska physicians who serve as personal and professional coaches. At the heart of the program is the importance of peer support, and working with coaches who can relate to physicians’ experiences. Physicians participating in the program can choose which coach they would like to work with based on their expertise and experience.
“As peers, our physician coaches understand the burdens and obstacles that physicians face,” said Lindsey Hanlon, MS, CPH, CPDC, Program Coordinator and Certified Physician Development Coach at LifeBridge Nebraska. “They have gone through medical school and residency; they know the struggles of work-life balance and the frustrations physicians face daily. They get it, and they have a deep and genuine understanding of what physicians are going through. We have found that physicians are much more open to sharing their struggles and experiences with peers who they can relate to.”
The stigma of seeking mental health care is very prevalent among physicians, which is why LifeBridge Nebraska is entirely confidential. Physicians who are interested in participating in the program first call a third-party call center that matches them with a coach to schedule their first session. Identities are never disclosed without written consent, and sessions are self-referred without medical diagnoses, insurance billing, or electronic records.
With more than 5,500 local Nebraska-licensed physicians, LifeBridge Nebraska has made a substantial impact through physician peer coaching, working with physicians to discuss issues from relationships and family stressors to long-term career goals and burnout. LifeBridge Nebraska is dedicated to improving physician wellbeing on both an individual and systemic level by increasing wellbeing through peer coaching and training, decreasing individual and cultural factors leading to burnout and working with systems and hospitals to create a culture of wellbeing.