Intended for healthcare professionals


Promoting wellbeing among doctors

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 03 February 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:252

We should move away from a disease model and focus on positive functioning

  1. Gavin Yamey, deputy editor (,
  2. Michael Wilkes, editor
  1. wjm, 221 Main Street, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-1911, USA

    Studies on physician functioning have focused almost exclusively on impairment, and as a result we know much about doctors' disease and despair, their substance misuse, burnout, and dysfunctional relationships. But we know very little about what keeps them feeling well.

    Though this may simply reflect the tendency for psychological research to focus on pathology rather than health, it nevertheless leaves doctors with little information to guide them in living positive and healthy lives. For this reason we have devoted the January issue of wjm, the Western Journal of Medicine, to exploring what we can do to promote physician wellbeing ( The issue includes studies on physician wellbeing, offers practical advice to physicians and policymakers, and gives some healthy alternatives to our damaging ways of living and working. There are two key themes that run throughout the issue—the ability of doctors to influence their own happiness through their personal values and choices, and the need for them to have some control over their external work environment.

    The importance of the first theme is shown by a qualitative study of the …

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