Cultivating Balance

Elizabeth Meade, MD, FAAP
Chair, National AAP Section on Early Career Physicians
Trustee, WCAAP

As past chair of the Sustainability & Engagement committee, I have been hearing over and over from WCAAP members that they are struggling with work-life balance, compassion fatigue, and burnout. On April 29, WCAAP held its first event dedicated to wellness and balance. In attendance were physicians from across the state, WCAAP staff members, and some incredible speakers. Entitled “From Burnout to Balance: Taking Back Your Life as a Provider,” our learning topics ran the gamut from practical mindfulness techniques applicable in everyday practice, to using guided writing as a way to express and process the difficult situations we deal with in our chosen fields.

Although I had spearheaded the event, I can say in complete honesty that I woke up that morning wondering if spending my first weekend day off in a month at a “work” event was really a good way to address my own challenges with balance and burnout.  I came away that afternoon certain that it had been. In addition to hearing from speakers with impressive knowledge, insight, and humanity, I was equally inspired by the conversations taking place among attendees at the event. There is comfort in togetherness, and it was truly engaging to hear from colleagues from across our state about challenges they face, methods for improvement, and individual takeaways from the day.

Two weeks later, I still think on a daily basis about something gathered there — whether it’s writing to process difficult situations, stealing a moment of mindfulness while handwashing in an exam room, or practicing self-compassion. We know that burnout is on the rise. Pediatrics has historically had a relatively low rate of burnout compared to other specialties, but that seems to be changing. In 2017,  more than 50% of pediatric physicians surveyed reported being burned out. We went from being ranked 21st out of 24 specialists surveyed (with 1 being the most burned out and 24 being the least), to 11th of 24 specialties, higher than Anesthesiology and General Surgery. WCAAP plans to continue offering events and resources dedicated to provider wellness to our members.  Please contact us if you would like to participate!