Physician Spiritual Well-Being: It’s About Connection

By: Jason Horay
2 Minute Read

Part IV of our series on holistic physician well-being.

The pillars of well-being are intertwined with one another, similar to the way other facets of our life are equally connected.

Many believe there is a distinct separation between our work, home, family, friends, community, finances, and environment, but this simply isn’t the case when pursuing holistic wellness.

Each of these individual parts of our lives affects one another in meaningful ways.

Similarly, physicians often don’t recognize the connection between mind, body, and what I refer to as “spirit,” due to the complex and sometimes consuming nature of their profession. However, by recognizing that each of these is connected, they may be able to achieve well-being throughout all facets of their lives.

Mind, Body, Spirit

We should first define what constitutes mind, body, and spirit. The body is the physical—the part of us that we can see, touch, feel, and move. The mind is intellect, cognition, thoughts, and the processing of information and feelings. The spirit, however, is more complex.

So how do we define spirit? Many freeze in fear at this question, because there is a connotation with religious belief systems about the spirit or soul. This isn’t necessarily true for all people. The spirit, by my definition, is one’s individual nature. It’s what makes you unique, the self that generates meaning and purpose while forging relationships with others.

In the practice environment, the “spirit” refers to the unique attributes to the individual organization, outside of patient satisfaction scores, finances, and strategic goals. It references the overall atmosphere that is generated, which is evident in the way that employees experience their work environment. Do they feel a connection to each other and their patients? Do they feel a sense of purpose in their role? Does the practice’s culture inspire them to grow and evolve in their profession? These are the metrics for creating a work environment that fosters spiritual wellness for physicians and practice staff.

Fostering Spiritual Well-Being

Employee wellness and employee assistance program manager Dr. Debra Lafler believes that wellness is a life-long process of self-discovery and self-improvement. She has created clear, actionable steps to further develop practice environments that support spiritual well-being:

  • Create a “culture” workgroup or committee where employees can discuss their unique perspectives on the practice environment
  • Assess the practice’s vision, mission, and core values to ensure they align with the goal of enabling holistic well-being
  • Anonymously survey employees about how they view the practice using some form of the following questions:
    • Do you feel that our practice represents our vision, mission, and core values?
    • What qualities define our culture at large?
    • Would you recommend working for our practice to others?
    • Do you feel safe to express yourself?
    • Do you feel seen, heard, and valued?
    • Do you feel connected to others?
    • Do you feel part of a collective, positive mission?
    • Do you feel a sense of meaning and purpose in your work?
    • Do you feel inspired working here?
    • Do you have any ideas or suggestions for improvement?
  • Decide if you want to add “fostering spirit” or “culture” to your annual strategic planning initiatives each year

In order to generate spiritual wellness within the practice environment, it’s important to provide a safe space for physicians and staff to share their thoughts and experiences. By better understanding their individual needs, practice leaders will be able to create opportunities for greater engagement and connection.

Learn more about emotional and physical well-being in previous installment of this series and be sure to check back in the coming weeks for future topics, including occupational and financial wellness.

Jason Horay
Jason Horay is Curi’s Health Promotion Program Manager, based in Raleigh, NC.
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