Sonya Bhole, MD, Director and Physician Lead of Ambulatory Breast Imaging at Northwestern, and Vidushani Perera, MD, Breast Imaging Fellow at Northwestern, contributed this piece.

The hype around physician burnout, wellness and the phenomenon of mitigating physician burnout with wellness initiatives has been increasing in the recent radiology literature. Why the surging hype? Unfortunately, as radiologist burnout statistics rise, with some sources approximating up to 50% of radiologists reporting symptoms, the implication is that Radiology may be falling off of what was previously called the “R.O.A.D to happiness.” To get back on course, radiology practices must prioritize the wellbeing of physicians and other team members through both individual and organizational interventions.

An equally buzzworthy concept, Blue Zones — coined by National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner, refers to the five world regions where the healthiest people with the highest life expectancies live. These Blue Zones share four major commonalities: natural movement, maintaining a positive outlook by creating purpose and downshifting, eating well and connecting through community investment.

These contemporary concepts of burnout, wellness and Blue Zones can be intertwined, resulting in overall physician and team wellness and patient-centered care. Physician wellness and patient-centered care are mutually inclusive, and interventions targeted at both lead to the best patient outcomes and job satisfaction for the entire team. As shown by practices implemented by our ambulatory breast center, there are easy ways to incorporate Blue Zone concepts without financial strain.

Natural movement can easily be added throughout your day with simple modifications such as intermittent standing and choosing the stairs. At our breast center, we encourage walking meetings, where team members discuss operations and check in while moving together – encouraging communication, building strong connections and helping to decompress from the workday.

Just as having a purpose is important for longevity in the Blue Zones, it is important for team members to feel valued at work. Defining missions and cultures without competing demands (e.g., high clinical volume taking away from research time or teaching), creating clear and defined roles, and setting attainable goals with recognition of accomplishments can help team members create purpose.

Prioritizing time for self-care and allowing for downshifting during the workday is crucial. You may consider creating a wellness room to allow your team members a dedicated space for stretching and meditation. Team dinners, happy hours and shared visions of work/life balance are key for recruiting and retaining the right people for your team. Ultimately, emphasizing compassionate, respectful communication relating both to patient care and the well-being of team members fosters a robust sense of community.

Implementing Blue Zone practices at our center has positively impacted the wellbeing of our team members through the recognition of our humanity and has created an authentic delivery of patient-centered healthcare. We hope that by outlining some of our initiatives, they can be adapted by other facilities to create more Blue Zones in radiology.

The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Ajay Chapa, Medical Director of Ambulatory Imaging at Northwestern and the Northwestern Medical Group Evanston Imaging team for their work and dedication in promoting wellness in the workspace.

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