Resident Self-Care Course Purchased by USC, Expanded at College of Medicine – Tucson

Monday, June 4, 2018

Dr. Mari Ricker and Dr. Nathaniel Harris, a Family Medicine residentThe University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine (UA CIM) is giving residents and fellows at home and across the country the education and support needed to minimize stress and burnout. This includes the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, which purchased UA CIM’s Physician Wellbeing course in January 2018.  

This June, the College of Medicine – Tucson expanded the course for its own residents, enrolling more than 225 incoming residents at Banner ­– University Medical Center Tucson. This is in addition to the 1,600 residents already enrolled in the course around the United States.

“This curriculum will lay the foundation and introduction to wellbeing for residents, and we can continue to expand on the concepts of wellness and resiliency throughout their time at the university,” explained Mari A. Ricker, MD, an associate professor of family and community medicine who helped create the course with other UA CIM faculty. “This is one of many changes being initiated by our college’s Office of Graduate Medical Education to impact resident wellbeing.” 

Designed to help improve the health and wellbeing of residents, the 4.5-hour course is already offered at eight other institutions and embedded into the curriculum of 69 national integrative medicine in residency programs. 

Dr. Mari Ricker and Dr. Katherine Hartl, a Family Medicine residentIn Los Angeles, residents at USC will have access to the online course for a year, including a six-week period allocated for them to dedicate time to the recommended activities. These include resiliency activities, such as meditation and journaling as well as exercise and other behaviors meant to promote health and wellness.

“We learned through our pilot study and focus groups that we needed to have protected time for this course, rather than adding it on as ‘one more thing,” Dr. Ricker said.

The Physician Wellbeing course has been well-received at the College of Medicine – Tucson, according to a 2016 pilot study and focus group that followed. Participants represented different departments, including family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, psychiatry and anesthesiology. 

“We saw a statistically significant decrease in burnout in the short time it took residents to complete the course, and in a follow-up survey of these same residents, a large number of the respondents reported an increase in healthy behaviors and improvement in work-life integration,” Dr. Ricker stated.  

Dr. Mari Ricker and Dr. Nathaniel Harris, a Family Medicine residentWhile working 80 hours per week, residents are often challenged to meet the complicated needs of patients, increase their knowledge, develop clinical skills in their specialty and learn how to function within an electronic health record — all with “little flexibility,” according to Dr. Ricker.

“Our medical system has become increasingly complex, and the burden of the electronic health record adds another layer of administrative work on top of the intense periods of clinical work,” she said.   

The UA CIM course gives residents the knowledge and skills needed to recognize signs of burnout in themselves and others.

Dr. Ricker is eager to see more residents and fellows “employ strategies to rest and restore so that they can continue the work they are passionate about: caring for patients and increasing their knowledge and skills in their specialty.”

She will be working very closely with residents as director of resident wellbeing. The Office of Graduate Medical Education created the position this year and appointed Dr. Ricker.


By: Kristan Obeng
Published: 6/4/2018