January 13, 2022

Wellness Efforts Are Needed by OB-GYN Residents, But One Solution Does Not Fit All

Workshop curriculum was valued by some, while others would have preferred time for themselves

OB/GYN Residents Wellness

The results of a year-long study of a wellness curriculum for obstetrics/gynecology residents to address stress and burnout show mixed reactions. Some participants said they benefited from the program content and social interaction with peers. Others were resistant to the curriculum, desiring more free time and action to address what is actually causing stress and burnout among residents, which is often related to heavy workloads, a fast-paced environment and not feeling valued.

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Stacie Jhaveri, MD, Associate Program Director of Cleveland Clinic’s OB-GYN Residency Program, was one of the six investigators for the study, which was conducted in the 2017-2018 academic year.

“The takeaway from the study is that it is difficult to agree on the purpose of a wellness curriculum and how it should even look,” Dr. Jhaveri says. “Simply having one in place lets residents know that the program values their well-being. But some see having one in place as not addressing the cause of the high levels of stress and burnout in the OB-GYN training environment.”

Gratitude, resilience, time management and more

Some 25 U.S. OB-GYN residency programs participated in the study, which involved 529 residents of all levels taking part in a wellness curriculum created by the Wellness Subcommittee of the Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology (CREOG).

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Facilitators used a guide, slide deck and videos created by the CREOG to provide structure to the hour-long interactive group workshops that were held monthly. The topics that were covered included gratitude, resilience, time management, mission, values and culture, and dealing with difficult events.

The residents who participated in the wellness curriculum were asked to anonymously complete surveys at the end of the course. Facilitators also submitted feedback on each workshop.

“The feedback helped to identify the polarization of what defines wellness for the participants individually,” Dr. Jhaveri says. “Some believe wellness initiatives should be customized and tailored to individual residency programs. Some would rather just have the time off to engage in self-care activities.”

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Feedback was consistently positive regarding the small-group discussions that took place as part of the curriculum. Residents appreciated the peer-to-peer interaction and the safe space provided to be able to address drivers of stress and burnout, if they were with a group leader with whom they were comfortable sharing.

Further research will be needed to help answer the questions that remain after this study – whether a wellness curriculum should be presented didactically to learners and, if so, what it should look like. Should it focus on developing skills or be restorative on its own? Does simply having a curriculum in place help residents feel supported, or are the programs seen as frivolous when the actual causes of stress may not be being addressed adequately?

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