Features  |   December 2018
Body, Mind and Soul: Toward Wholeness and Healing
Author Affiliations
  • Lynda Torfreda Wells, M.D., FRCA, FRAI, DABPM
    Committee on Occupational Health
Article Information
Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems / Pain Medicine / Pediatric Anesthesia / Pharmacology / Features
Features   |   December 2018
Body, Mind and Soul: Toward Wholeness and Healing
ASA Monitor 12 2018, Vol.82, 12-14.
ASA Monitor 12 2018, Vol.82, 12-14.
Current ASA recommendations for physician well-being focus on the body.1  What of the mind and soul? These elements confer our unique essence as human beings. Why are they relegated to the background? Why does the promise of wholeness evoke discomfort? Does being in sync with these invisible parts of ourselves matter?
Talbot and Dean2  wrote “Physicians aren’t ‘burning out.’ They’re suffering from moral injury.” Moral injury was first characterized in combatants during World War I. It arises from “perpetrating, failing to prevent, bearing witness to, or learning about acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.” It has been likened to “a deep soul wound that pierces a person’s sense of morality and relationship to society.” At a time when the health care industry and federal regulations are frequently at odds with the practice of medicine, “failing to consistently meet patients’ needs has a profound impact on physician wellbeing” and is “the crux of consequent moral injury. Incessant betrayals of patient care and trust are examples of ‘death by a thousand cuts.’” Physicians are described as “smart, tough, durable, resourceful people. If there was a way to MacGyver themselves out of this situation by working harder, smarter or differently, they would have done it already.” Those who continue to practice are described as “wounded, disengaged and increasingly hopeless.” These casualties are not just burned out, depressed, poor communicators or lacking in resilience – they can be suicidal.
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