by Lori Emory, PharmD, PGY1 Pharmacy Practice Resident, Mississippi State Department of Health Pharmacy
Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” from challenges — to learn and grow from setbacks. An individual’s resilience is built up over the course of their life and is shaped by their actions taken prior to, during, and after difficult and often stressful situations.1,2
Stress is a natural response by the body to physical and mental challenges. While stress can be a motivating factor that prompts us to try new things as we face new challenges, too much stress over a prolonged period of time is unhealthy and can lead to anxiety and burnout. Anxiety is an overreaction to stress experienced from performing “ordinary” daily activities which can lead to significant impairment. Burnout is a diminished ability to respond to stressors and can lead to anhedonia and depression.1,3
In healthcare, providers are responsible for the well-being of numerous patients. Chronic stress – often unavoidable in healthcare – puts health professionals at a higher risk for developing anxiety or burnout, which, in turn, results in less than optimal care and increases the risk of errors and poor patient outcomes.1,3,4 Thus, resilience strategies, often techniques learned from previous stressful situations, help providers meet new challenges.5
There are conflicting feelings about resiliency training in healthcare. Some have argued that resiliency training focuses too much on individuals by teaching them how to adapt to and cope with the ever-growing demands of the profession while letting institutions off the hook by failing to address poor working conditions, such as chronic understaffing and addressing hindrances.2,4 While data supporting resilience training programs in healthcare are limited, results show participants generally appreciate learning about the tools they can use to become more resilient and like being part of a community where they can share experiences with fellow health professionals.1,2
Although self-care has been around for many years, resiliency training was introduced to me as a formal concept while applying for residency. Many residencies now offer resilience training as a required component of their program structure. Given that most pharmacy jobs provide little to no social support for new practitioners, I believe having resiliency training incorporated into the residency experience can be very beneficial.
Several studies have examined the elements of resiliency training that participants generally believe are needed for it to be most beneficial:
- Focusing on the experience of health professionals and students is vital in a successful program. 1,2,4,5,6 Healthcare workers are exposed to difficult human experiences while working with serious injuries, illnesses, and even death.1,2,4,6 Participants in resiliency training programs discussed the need for training to be guided by another health professional with a shared understanding of the many challenges that come with working in healthcare.1,2,6
- Sharing experiences in a positive and non-judgmental manner builds community among healthcare providers who often feel isolated.1,2 Many providers report feeling isolated and a desire to participate in a community of peer support.1 Program participants reported small group discussions allowed them to recognize their own behaviors better and learn from others’ real-world experiences.1,6 Participants often report preferring voluntary attendance at these sessions as they felt it helped ensure that all participants would come in with an open mind about sharing experiences and learning to grow from difficult situations.2,6
- Following up with participants helps turn new skills into daily practiced habits. While the initial training session(s) were often considered to be helpful by participants, programs that included follow-up reflection, allow participants to expand on the skills they learned and think about how they could use those skills in their daily lives. 1,2,6
- All health professionals can benefit from these types of programs, regardless of their current level of experience. Even students at the beginning of their training are exposed to the difficult realities of a career working in healthcare, and serving people who are experiencing some of the greatest stress in their lives.2,5 Promoting resiliency training programs during early didactic coursework or introductory practice experiences may provide key life-long skills that participants will benefit from long-term as they progress through training and into their professional lives.2,6 Students particularly report benefits from training programs that are structured to provide insight into stressors that they may experience, during their training and in practice.2,3,6
Offering resiliency training led by experienced faculty members should be considered at all educational institutions that are preparing the next generation of health professionals. Resiliency training programs should be voluntary, such as course electives or extracurricular meetings, where all students can participate without feeling the need to give up other interests. Placing participants in small groups of 8-10 with a mix of learners at various levels and faculty with guided discussion prompts can foster natural mentorships and a sense of community within groups. Providing this kind of support early and often throughout the professional degree program can provide a safe space where genuine conversations can take place. Regularly obtaining feedback from participants is important to tailor these programs to meet the needs of students and faculty based on schedules and topics of interest.
- Epstein RM, Krasner MS. Physician Resilience: What It Means, Why It Matters, and How to Promote It. Academic Medicine 2013: 88(3):301-303.
- Johnson J, Simms-Ellis R, Janes G, et al. Can we prepare healthcare professionals and students for involvement in stressful healthcare events? A mixed-methods evaluation of a resilience training intervention. BMC Health Serv Res 2020; 20: Article number 1094.
- Fares J, Al Tabosh H, Stress AH, et al. Burnout and coping strategies in Preclinical Medical Students. N Am J Med Sci 2016; 8 (2):75-81.
- Murthy VH. Confronting health worker burnout and well-being. N Eng J Med 2022;387(7):577–9.
- Kunzler AM, Helmreich I, König J, et al. Psychological interventions to foster resilience in healthcare students. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2020, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD013684:7-43.
- Bird A, Tomescu O, Oyola S, Houpy J, Anderson I, Pincavage A.A curriculum to teach resilience skills to medical students during clinical training. MedEdPORTAL 2020;16:10975.
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