Finding Joy in Medicine: Development of Thoughtful Physician Leaders Nurturing Camaraderie and Joy in Work

joy in work

A collegial work experience in medicine is becoming more and more difficult to create. Busy clinicians spend their days interacting with patients and seldom have opportunities to collaborate with colleagues. Interactions with patients, while essential and valuable, are brief and patient-centered. These exchanges might not always meet the needs we have as clinicians the same way bonds with our colleagues can.

A collegial work environment provides opportunities to share similar experiences, seek collaborative solutions to problems, and build trust among our peers. Being intentional about creating these kinds of work relationships can increase provider resiliency and decrease stress levels. Stephen Swensen, MD, Medical Director for Professionalism and Peer Support at Intermountain and Senior Fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement sat down to chat with Mark Briesacher, MD, Senior VP & Chief Physician Executive and President, Intermountain Medical Group, about how leaders can help improve esprit de corps among providers.

Dr. Briesacher and Dr. Swensen talk about esprit de corps

“Esprit de corps begins with caring about each other first,” says Dr. Swensen. “Intermountain leaders must take care of our providers in order to maintain the high-quality healthcare our patients have come to expect.” So how do our leaders best do that? “The key ingredient of the secret sauce is leaders who care about their staff and look continuously to remove frustrations and inefficiencies in a patient-centered way. They care about their caregivers and take time to visit.”

“One of the things I like about Intermountain’s Continuous Improvement initiative is that it gives us an opportunity to understand what’s important to every frontline caregiver, where they find joy in their work, and what we might be able to do—or what they believe we can do—to make that work better,” says Dr. Briesacher. “And it seems like this fits right in with the idea of esprit de corps and building trust in each other.”

“Imagine if every point-of-care leader at Intermountain sat down with his or her colleagues and asked them what brings them joy in their work, or what saps that joy, or what makes for a good day,” says Steve. “Then, together—not for them or to them, but with them—we fix this. We figure out how to make our days more joyful or less frustrating, and we focus on providing the best patient care with the knowledge that we have the support of our leaders and teammates.”

The organizations that have the highest levels of social capital and trust among each other are safer and more efficient. They diffuse best practices and ideas faster, and they learn from adverse events faster than organizations that don’t have that trust or connectedness. Dr. Swensen says, “The more time we spend together to appreciate each other’s diversity and backgrounds, the better off we will be to provide the best for our patients.”