After learning about the causes of burnout, how to cope with it, and how to convey one’s concerns to the higher-ups in an organization, Marie meets Dr. Helen Riess, a practicing psychiatrist who directs the empathy research program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Helen believes that the rigors and pressures of medical education, training and practice deplete physicians of their natural ability to empathize and connect with patients. She describes how physicians can form meaningful empathic connections to patients during the limited time of an office visit. A quick gaze conveying that “I see you” acknowledges the patient. Actively including the patient in reviewing lab and imaging tests may improve the patient’s experience of the physician and the visit. Helen helps physicians to notice and decode patients’ facial expressions and body postures. When the patient feels understood, this improves the care experience for doctor and patient alike, enhancing the well-being of both parties. Helen coaches Marie to encourage dialogue through open-ended questions, and to artfully and tactfully close discussions in a timely manner without giving the impression of rushing. As these skills are mastered, a mutually satisfying connection may emerge, enhancing the personal and professional fulfillment of the caregiver in a way that may mitigate the stress and burnout that is rampant. Cognitive reframing and self-regulation are additional skills that help a physician to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the emotions of shared experiences that patients bring to the exam room and office.
None of the individuals in a position to control the content of this CME activity, and/or their spouse/partner, have any relevant financial relationships with commercial interests to disclose.