Tackling physician burnout through Joy in Work

August 8, 2019

If you were eavesdropping on the informal chat of a room full of medical professionals, how often would the word ‘joy’ come up? While terms like ‘burnout’ and ‘overwork’ might pepper the conversation, ‘joy’ would likely be missing in action.

In order to initiate an understanding of the causes, implications and possible solutions to burnout among physicians, two joint collaborative committees of Doctors of BC and the BC government - the Specialist Services and Shared Care committees - sponsored the participation of 35 physicians in an online course called Joy in Work (JIW). The program was offered by the Institute for Health Care Improvement and ran from March to June, 2019.

Joy%20in%20WorkThe 12 week virtual course provided a framework with an understanding of the effort required to address burnout and introduce joy.

The course acknowledged the breadth of burnout in the profession and introduced ways of working around the issue, both individually and collectively as a health care system.

Participants included physicians, medical leaders, Doctors of BC staff and the Canadian Medical Association, all of whom contributed to the richness of the discussion in a recent webinar hosted by the Specialist Services Committee around how the Joy in Work model can be implemented to improve their own workplaces.

Participating physician Dr Lawrence Yang said he had previously experienced burnout himself and finished the course convinced that joy in work needs to be explicitly addressed at every leadership table.

“Doctors need to create effective networks,” said Dr Yang. “We are too fragmented. We don't know each other. We don't ask each other for help.”

Regarding the solutions offered by the course, Dr Yang said “The concept is that you’re working on a solution together after you’ve had genuine, safe conversations to determine what matters to staff.”

Dr Daisy Dulay found the course to be useful and informative. “The coursework wasn’t too arduous, a mix of reading and videos that discussed details of the Joy in Work framework with real-life examples,” she said.

The beauty of starting a JIW project lies in the fact that it encourages the participation of health care professionals and leaders at different levels to work together and improve their workplace.

Dr Yang called the sponsorship of the course a fantastic start.

If we do not follow through with supporting physician leadership in building safe cultures where physicians who are struggling can find low-barrier access to meaningful healing, we cannot expect our communities to experience excellent health care,” he added.

Next steps are being initiated by Drs Dulay and Yang, who will continue to lead follow up webinars with the course participants in BC. Their hope is to have meaningful discussions and encourage people to share the learnings of the course, involve key people in the discussions and to encourage sharing of the learnings in the course. “Collectively we can make a difference in improving physicians’ job experience in BC,” said Dr Dulay.

The Joy in Work course will be offered again in September 2019 and the Specialist Services and Shared Care Committees will be sponsoring physicians in British Columbia to participate. Interested physicians can register by emailing .


What else is Doctors of BC doing to support physician wellness?

Doctors of BC is working to relieve physician burdens associated with burnout by tackling systemic issues in health care. A summary of our recent member consultation can be found here (login required).  

Doctors of BC recently signed an agreement with the CMA that will result in the development of a joint initiative to support health and wellness for BC physicians.

Divisions of Family Practice and Medical Staff Associations, funded by Doctors of BC and the BC government, are also leading initiatives to support physician wellness. The Kootney-Boundary division has created a grassroots approach to support peer-to-peer connections among physicians. Read their story here.