ASH 2019: promoting resilience and wellbeing

Friday 20th December 2019

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At this year’s American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference there were a few unusual additions to the program in the form of a variety of offerings focused on helping clinicians develop resilience and cultivate wellbeing

When physicians experience burnout and decide to quit their jobs it can cost between $500,000 to more than $1 million to hire a new doctor, and this figure doesn’t include indirect costs such as medical errors, malpractice risk, reduced patient satisfaction, damage to reputations, and the deleterious effects to patient and clinician wellbeing. 

Over the past few years the ASH organizers have been building towards these special sessions with a number of sessions focused on burnout and wellbeing. At ASH 2017, a practice-focused session explored wellbeing as a whole, burnout, moral distress, and career satisfaction in stem cell transplant providers. At ASH 2018 and in collaboration with the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), images from NAM’s “Expressions of Clinical Wellbeing” were displayed to promote greater awareness and understanding of barriers to clinician wellbeing and to highlight potential solutions to protect and promote the wellbeing of all healthcare professionals. One hundred images from the 350 that were submitted reflecting what clinician wellbeing looks, feels, and sounds like are available to view in a permanent digital exhibition

At this year’s ASH, the ASH wellbeing studio took this a step further by offering micro-talks in break sessions providing tip and tools on how to eat mindfully, move well, think well, sleep well and how best to overcome, or avoid, burnout. Early morning Yoga @ the Park sessions were offered to whoever wished to attend. Delegates also had the option of listening to a selection of oral abstracts while riding an exercise bike. And if that’s not enough, there were pods for power-napping on a first come first served basis. Pod were available for a 20-minute nap – each pod is totally dark with a blanket to keep you warm and headphones deliver white noise to assist you in relaxing to the max. This initiative proved very popular as the waiting area was always full (so I never got to try one out, not even in the interests of science!). 

No matter what job we do, when we feel better, we live and work better and everyone benefits. It’s encouraging to see a holistic approach to wellbeing not only being promoted but also engaged with by clinicians attending the conference. The organizers of ASH are certainly taking an innovative approach to achieving the society’s mission of conquering blood diseases worldwide.