Can We Solve the Lifelong Learning Crisis In Medicine?
From Burnout to Resilience: In Search of the Heart of Medical Education
In a world of accelerating and disruptive change, there are few things that are likely to remain untouched within the house of medicine. The face of healthcare today will be unrecognizable to the next cohort of physicians on the near horizon. Yet there remain some persistent truths I hope will continue to sustain us and live in the hearts of physicians for generations to come. Here is the one I hold dear:
“That we are inspired to learn because what we learn has the potential to help others.”
This foundational truth of our profession is my daily pilgrimage, and my life’s journey as a physician educator. I see it humbly embodied year after year in my dedicated colleagues. I see it in the next generation of physicians who train side by side with me; who return day after day to the bedside in an effort to translate their new knowledge into patient care. And for those who know me, it’s an open secret that I often draw my inspiration to be a better doctor from those I work with.
Sadly, I’ve also been forced to realize that our desire to learn in the service of helping others is not an immutable truth. Although resilient, it’s a desire that can be bruised and battered when exposed to the relentless assault of a healthcare system that makes increasing demands on our time outside of the clinical space with a laundry list of checkbox certifications intended to “certify” us.
Keeping up in an era of disruptive and accelerating change is necessary, but if care isn’t taken, this approach can slowly transform our physician learning experience into one that devolves into simmering resentment — replacing inspiration one checkbox at a time with mandatory tasks designed solely for the benefit of the certifier not the certified. When this “maintenance of certification” (MOC) takes hold, a basic truth at the heart of our profession is damaged.
I know this transformation in the desire to learn can happen because I’ve experienced it — feeling the disappointment and frustration that happens when one of the major sources of inspiration in my professional life became slowly buried under a flood of well…