Creating Structured Opportunities for Social Engagement to Promote Well-Being and Avoid Burnout in Medical Students and Residents
Increasing attention is being paid to medical student and resident well-being, as well as to enhancing resilience and avoiding burnout in medical trainees. Medical schools and residency programs are implementing wellness initiatives that often include meditation and other mindfulness activities, self-reflection, journaling, and lectures or workshops on resilience tools such as metacognition and cognitive restructuring. These interventions have in common the creation of opportunities for trainees to become more aware of their experiences, to better recognize stressors, and to regulate their thoughts and feelings so that stressors are less likely to have harmful effects. They often enable trainees to temporarily distance themselves mentally and emotionally from a stressful environment. In this Invited Commentary, the author suggests that medical school leaders and residency program directors should also create structured opportunities for trainees to establish meaningful connections with each other to provide greater social support and thereby reduce the harmful effects of stress. Social connection and engagement, as well as group identification, have potential to promote well-being and reduce burnout during training.