Thursday, February 16, 2017

USA Gold Humanism Honor Society Members Implement “Three Good Things” to Help Medical Students Cope with Burnout

Third-year medical student Alexandria Broadnax writes "three good things" in her notebook. The exercise serves as an avenue for students to reflect, recognize and document the positive aspects of their day.
Members of the Gold Humanism in Medicine Honor Society (GHHS) at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine recently implemented the “Three Good Things” stress management technique to decrease burnout, depression and apathy among third-year medical students.

Several GHHS members from the Class of 2017 bought notebooks for third-year medical students to each record “three good things” that happened to them that day. According to Corwin McGee, a fourth-year medical student and GHHS president at the USA College of Medicine, the exercise serves as an avenue for students to reflect, recognize and document the positive aspects of their day.

“Medical students that are going through burnout can experience poor performance in school and problems in their personal life,” McGee said. “It is important to address burnout early on because studies have shown that burnout starts in medical school and can persist into their residency training.”

According to McGee, although the effects of burnout can impact all medical students, GHHS members implemented this technique with third-year students because it is the first year students have daily interactions with patients.

“The third year of medical school can be a difficult adjustment,” said Jacob Sexton, another fourth-year medical student and GHHS member at the USA College of Medicine. “In addition to didactic classes, they are now working with patients and get to witness both the high and low points of medicine. The three good things exercise helps push away any negativity that is associated with some aspects of medical school, while reminding oneself about the amazing things that we are privileged to do every day.”

Third-year medical student Alexandria Broadnax said the transition from learning about diseases in textbooks to learning about diseases from patient encounters can be both exciting and overwhelming.

“During the first two years of medical school we generally have a set lecture schedule and dedicated study time,” she said. “The third year can be difficult because it is vastly self-directed and requires independent learning and managing time to study after clinical duties.”

Broadnax said it is a great idea for medical students to reflect and be reminded of at least three good things that took place each day. “I am a believer that everything happens for a reason, and it is important to try to find the good in each situation in order to grow and become a better you,” she said.

Although she has not experienced burnout herself, Broadnax said it is a common issue that many medical students experience. “I believe burnout in medical school is more prevalent than we would like to imagine,” she said. “Thankfully, I have a great support system that includes my close family, friends and church family who I can rely on for both emotional and spiritual support.”

In addition to documenting three good things each night, McGee, Sexton and Broadnax agree that maintaining a life outside of medical school is vital. “The best thing medical students can do to avoid burnout is to have something to turn to when school and life gets stressful,” McGee said. “Whether that is your family, friends or hobbies, you have to have something outside the realm of medicine.”

The GHHS members of the Class of 2017 were inspired to address burnout in medical school by Dr. Terri Babineau, former assistant dean of student affairs and associate professor of family medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va. Recently, Dr. Babineau presented “Burnout in Healthcare and Mindfulness Tools” to first- and second-year medical students and “Narrative Medicine in Response to Burnout” at a joint Grand Rounds lecture for the departments of obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics at USA.

To learn more about “Three Good Things,” click here.

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