CanMEDS Professional
Physician Health and Well-Being

Physician Health and Well-Being


As physicians, we are often better at taking care of others than we are at taking care of ourselves.

If we don’t look after ourselves we can’t look after anyone else. It is important to develop an awareness of our own limitations and needs and then to address them to maintain a sense of well-being

Physician health is gaining prominence in medical education. Burnout and compassion fatigue are now recognized as growing problems which can be prevented or recognized early.



"The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet. This sort of denial is no small matter. The way we deal with loss shapes our capacity to be present to life more than anything else. The way we protect ourselves from loss may be the way in which we distance ourselves from life and help. We burn out not because we don’t care but because we don’t grieve. We burn out because we’ve allowed our hearts to become so filled with loss that we have no room left to care."[2]


The above quote is by Rachel Naomi Remen, a physician who sees medicine as a spiritual path and who has written about the stresses of the work we have the privilege to do.





How do you protect yourself from loss at work?


How have you seen others protect themselves from loss in their work in health care?


Have you grieved losses related to work? Have you seen others effectively honour and grieve losses experienced at work?


List possible ways that you could follow Dr. Remen's suggestion and make more room in our hearts to care by dealing with the loss that threatens us with burnout.


Who we are and our collection of life experiences come with us when we go to work. Some of us are experiencing or have experienced forms of trauma and stress related to health, economic or other life circumstances.  Our social ties, belief systems and histories shape, in part, our responses to events we experience or witness in the course of work in the helping profession of medicine.



2. Rachel Naomi Remen: "Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal" Penguin, New York,1996.

All references for this section