Research Day

The Words We Use: Identifying The Preferred Lexicon For Predictors Of Physician Burnout

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In response to national concerns about physician burnout, many medical schools have been initiating wellness programming focused on both individual and institutional factors. A key to the success of these efforts is having sufficient buy in from student and faculty audiences. As advocated in other contexts, having members of an educational community share responsibility for creating a lexicon can increase investment and motivation. Individual engagement is especially important when it comes to several predictors of burnout that have often been ignored within the traditional "iron doc" culture of medicine. Focus-group methodology was used to gather information regarding preferred language for the terms self-care, self-compassion, and self-disclosure regarding difficult emotions. Thematic analysis using grounded theory was used to analyze transcriptions from faculty (n=12) and student (n=9) groups, revealing a strong favoring of alternative language compared to phrases commonly used in the wellness literature. For example, personal well-being was preferred over self-care, self-kindness was preferred over self-compassion, and sharing emotions and processing feelings were preferred over disclosing emotions. Students tended to prefer more formal phrases than did faculty. The favoring of terms that differ from those used in wellness research suggests that interventions designed to improve burnout conditions should not be developed strictly from the literature, but rather, need to be crafted to meet the needs of the local community, including preferred lexicon. As shown by this work, lexicon focus groups may be a valuable initial step for medical schools endeavoring to create and implement physician burnout interventions and learner wellness curricula.

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