President's Message

Summer, 2019

Jennifer Sparks, MD – MASSFP President

Jennifer Sparks, MD

Physician wellness vs burnout vs moral injury: is there one true descriptor?

What is holding you back from wellness?! Is it a sign as simple as this? What other barriers may be in your way for wellness and how do you identify what they are? I took this photo in preparation for this president’s letter as I wanted to share with you some of the activities the MassAFP and AAFP have undertaken to address physician wellness.

Results from the 2018 MassAFP Wellbeing and burnout survey last year were the following

1.     68.8% of our membership is employed

2.     52.6% Urban, 35.6% Suburban, 5.8% rural

3.     51% of membership are feeling symptoms of burnout

4.     Coping strategies: 80% talk c friends/family, 70% exercise, 52% sleep, 25% junk food, 20% isolate

5.     73.3% feel no employer action has been made and limited concern about physician wellness and burnout

6.     Comment themes:

  • Support groups/networking opportunities
  • Advocate that the organizations truly become concerned and move to the action stage
  • Address administrative burden and systemic issues


Actions taken by the MassAFP to address Resiliency thus far:

1.     Creation of a wellness task force

2.     Wellness/Resilience track in the Spring Refresher

3.     Inclusion of physician wellness segment in the monthly newsletter aimed at physician and system wellness

4.     Developing a wellness networking opportunity: coming soon!

5.     Sharing local wellness resources and resiliency programs at local institutions: coming soon!


It is not simply the individual who must be tasked with wellness, but also the systems in which we work. For this reason, our monthly newsletter provides links on information for both physician and system articles for wellness. At the national level, our Academy is actively working as well on physician and system level improvement opportunities. On the physician health first, page one will find resources associated with the individual, practice, health care system, organization, and culture. Advocacy endeavors include payment reform, expanding federal loan and scholarship programs targeted at primary care, and reducing administrative burden.

In May of 2019, the World Health Organization defined burnout further as an occupational phenomenon, which I would also categorize as hazard.

Progress often starts with individual reflection when faced with challenge/hardship/burnout/moral injury. During a 2014 healthcare leadership training seminar, I jotted down the following stages of an individual’s response to burnout. Reflection allows me to recognize I have some locus of control.

1.     Assess your reaction/role

2.     Change job dynamics, work flow, or schedule

3.     Change job in a small way, administrative, cut back, or work in different department

4.     Change job in a big way, career change, new location


In the same vein of locus of control, the AAFP provides an info-graphic on mindset and well-being

The Physician Health First page by the AAFP allows us access to monitor and track our well-being or feelings of burnout as well as suggestions/resources to use for our overall wellness as individuals and systems. The Maslach Burnout Inventory is a way to take a moment and reflect on where you are: Below is a brief part of my most recent results.

Granted, the test takes all of 5 minutes. Be honest, as no one sees this information, and you can see how you compare to your counterparts. Additionally, you can schedule wellness check- ins to determine how your wellness is throughout the year, or after specific interventions. In the 33 page response to your 5 minutes of reflection, you will find references and suggestions on burnout profiles, coping strategies, suggestions for reducing job stress, solutions for work-life problems and suggested readings.

As we move into the summer months and vacation times, perhaps it is time for reflection or changing our point of view. When I turned away from the stop sign, this is what I found. I wish you all a wonderful summer!

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