At a First-of-Its Kind CENTILE Conference, Participants Discussed Ways to Promote Resilience Among Medical Professionals

Posted in GUMC Stories

NOV. 18, 2015 – Over three days of plenaries, symposia, discussions, workshops and poster sessions, complemented by morning yoga and meditation sessions, participants in a conference organized by the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Education (CENTILE) learned about stress management, fostering empathy, professional identity formation and more.

The 2015 International CENTILE Conference to Promote Resilience, Empathy and Well-Being in the Health Care Professions, held Oct. 18-21 at Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center, was co-hosted by Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Health. It was also jointly sponsored by Maryland University of Integrative Health, as well as integrative health programs at the Mayo Clinic, University of California, San Francisco, University of Cincinnati, University of Minnesota and Vanderbilt Health.

More than 250 people from academic departments and the health science professions attended the conference, which Aviad Haramati, PhD , director of CENTILE and chair of the conference’s planning committee, described as the first of its kind.

“The goal of the conference was to bring together educators, researchers, practitioners, faculty development leaders and academic policy makers to present and discuss the best practices and strategies to promote resilience, empathy and well-being across the health professions’ spectrum,” Haramati said.

Overcoming Burnout, Fostering Resilience and Building Empathy

Nearly 100 abstracts were submitted in the process of planning the conference. “We were looking to inform our attendees of the issues surrounding burnout, but also to share responses, initiatives and strategies – both individual and institutional – that are addressing these issues and their ripple effects, and who has created environments that promote resilience, empathy and well-being,” said Peg Weissinger, EdD, MBA , associate director of CENTILE and chair of the conference’s program committee. “And at the same time, we wanted to provide opportunities for participants to discuss and network and create opportunities for collaboration.”

In the opening plenary lecture, Christina Maslach, PhD, professor of psychology emerita at the University of California, Berkeley described burnout as a combination of exhaustion, professional inefficacy and cynicism, the most damaging aspect of burnout. “Cynicism changes how you do your job,” Maslach said. “When you begin to develop that negative cynicism, you’re really shifting from trying to do your very best to doing the bare minimum.”

Burnout can lead to absenteeism, poor job performance, incivility, turnover, health problems and depression, as well as a strong intention to leave the medical profession, a finding confirmed by a 2012 survey in which only one in 10 physicians said they would recommend that others pursue careers in medicine.

Michael Leiter, PhD, professor of psychology at Acadia University, evaluated an institutional intervention called Civility, Respect and Engagement at Work (CREW) that focuses on improving the way colleagues communicate with each other. Six months after starting the intervention, the CREW participants experienced higher levels of civility than the control group. “We found that we were really reflecting on our own behavior a lot,” he said. “That’s actually a good part of the process.”

Plenary speakers and workshop leaders also described the use of mindfulness and other mind-body approaches as effective ways to foster empathy and build resilience. Eve Ekman, PhD, research fellow at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, described in her plenary how empathic distress involving shame, guilt and anxiety can lead to burnout, but compassionate empathic responses such as “feeling good about doing good” and “a desire to help others” can reduce burnout and lead to enhanced meaning in work. Physicians who are more mindful report greater job satisfaction and their patients feel they receive better care.

Several participants lauded the Mind-Body Medicine Program at Georgetown University Medical Center and the faculty training led by Haramati and Nancy Harazduk, program director. “The courses in mind-body medicine that we offer to our students and faculty at Georgetown University are one way to provide tools that promote resilience,” said Haramati.

Spreading The Word About Lessons Learned

“The conference was very well received. We drew attendance from many institutions, both in the U.S. and from overseas. We attracted participants from all health science departments and professions, ranging from students to deans,” Weissinger said. “If we do this again in the future, we will want to hear from those who have conducted studies, gathered and analyzed evidence, and are willing to share best practices.”

Recent grants will support the efforts to promote the conference’s findings, including a $10,000 Presidential Grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. CENTILE also received a $5,000 award from the Arnold Gold Foundation and significant funding from the Hecht Foundation and the Weil Foundation, among others.

“These generous grants and funding support will allow us to continue to share the latest research on ways to reduce stress and burnout and promote resilience in the health professions,” Haramati said.

Kat Zambon
GUMC Communications