Resilience training helps pediatric residents cope
Healthcare providers might not think there us much in common with the United States Navy’s sea, air and land teams, but according to Brenda Bursch, PhD, professor of clinical psychiatry and pediatrics at UCLA, people who work in trauma situations face many of the same challenges as military professionals.
“Healthcare careers require a high level of skill, the ability to tolerate extreme stress, long work hours and exposure to trauma — and all while maintaining a calm demeanor in life-and-death situations,” says Dr. Bursch. These types of settings are typically ripe for burnout as well.
That’s why Dr. Bursch and her colleague, Jessica Lloyd, MD, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at UCLA, developed the UCLA Pediatric Residency Resilience Training Program. This pilot program was launched last fall to teach pediatric residents how to recover and function well in high-stress situations.
Pediatrics was a good place to start, since practitioners may encounter extremely stressful situations, such as the death of a child. Dr. Lloyd experienced that herself as a pediatric critical-care fellow. She was eager to help others find ways to cope. “You bond with children and their families and grieve with them after their loss. It’s hard to experience that loss and then go right on to the next patient,” Dr. Lloyd says.
For their program, Dr. Bursch and Dr. Lloyd adapted a model developed at UCLA for military families called the Families OverComing Under Stress (FOCUS) program. Based on the FOCUS model, pediatric residents were taught skills that can help them overcome the sadness, depression and other problems associated with stressful, and sometimes traumatic, work-related events.
With funding from the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the department of pediatrics, along with assistance from UCLA departments of pediatrics and psychiatry volunteers, the program used interactive presentations and activities to build resilience skills. Interest is high for expanding it to other areas as well, and Dr. Bursch is working on training and other support interventions for nurses.
The Pediatric Residency Resilience Training Program was developed in collaboration with the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior’s division of population behavioral health.
“It’s wonderful to see residents learn skills that will help them in their careers, and also help them take better care of patients in the future,” Dr. Lloyd says.