How physicians draw satisfaction and overcome barriers in their practices: “It sustains me”

William T. Branch, Amy B. Weil, Mary Ann C. Gilligan, Debra K. Litzelman, Janet P. Hafler, Margaret Plews-Ogan, Elizabeth A. Rider, Lars G. Osterberg, Dana Dunne, Arthur R. Derse, J. Richard Pittman, Richard M. Frankel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations


Objective Major reorganizations of medical practice today challenge physicians’ ability to deliver compassionate care. We sought to understand how physicians who completed an intensive faculty development program in medical humanism sustain their humanistic practices. Methods Program completers from 8 U.S. medical schools wrote reflections in answer to two open-ended questions addressing their personal motivations and the barriers that impeded their humanistic practice and teaching. Reflections were qualitatively analyzed using the constant comparative method. Results Sixty-eight physicians (74% response rate) submitted reflections. Motivating factors included: 1) identification with humanistic values; 2) providing care that they or their family would want; 3) connecting to patients; 4) passing on values through role modelling; 5) being in the moment. Inhibiting factors included: 1) time, 2) stress, 3) culture, and 4) episodic burnout. Conclusions Determination to live by one's values, embedded within a strong professional identity, allowed study participants to alleviate, but not resolve, the barriers. Collaborative action to address organizational impediments was endorsed but found to be lacking. Practice implications Fostering fully mature professional development among physicians will require new skills and opportunities that reinforce time-honored values while simultaneously partnering with others to nurture, sustain and improve patient care by addressing system issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2320-2330
Number of pages11
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Faculty development
  • Medical education
  • Medical humanism
  • Mindfulness
  • Physician burnout
  • Physician satisfaction
  • Professional identity formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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    Branch, W. T., Weil, A. B., Gilligan, M. A. C., Litzelman, D. K., Hafler, J. P., Plews-Ogan, M., Rider, E. A., Osterberg, L. G., Dunne, D., Derse, A. R., Pittman, J. R., & Frankel, R. M. (2017). How physicians draw satisfaction and overcome barriers in their practices: “It sustains me”. Patient Education and Counseling, 100(12), 2320-2330.