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The Sound of Healing: How Assembling an Orchestra can Improve Physician Well-Being

This Physician's View opinion piece is written by both Vincent Hsu, MD, epidemiologist and AdventHealth executive director of infection prevention, and Omayra Mansfield, MD, emergency medicine physician and chief medical officer for AdventHealth Apopka, as well as the chief medical officer for the AdventHealth Central Florida Division’s physician experience.

The Silent Epidemic Among Physicians

Vincent Hsu, MD, Epidemiologist and AdventHealth executive director of infection prevention

Vincent Hsu, MD
Vincent Hsu, MD, epidemiologist and AdventHealth executive director of infection prevention and Omayra Mansfield, MD, emergency medicine physician and chief medical officer for AdventHealth Apopka, as well as the chief medical officer for the AdventHealth Central Florida Division’s physician experience.

Two years ago today, the AdventHealth Central Florida Division cared for our first COVID-19 patient. Since then, our physicians and clinical teams have battled a virus that’s ravaged our patients; some have been friends and loved ones, and, unfortunately, it’s ongoing.

During this “new normal,” the days have gotten longer, our sleep is shorter, and we hit the ground running to complete our ever-increasing to-do list at work – there’s never enough time in the day.

The exhaustion, stress and depression mount. For many, myself included, it’s a struggle to keep your head above water and perform at such a high-level day after day, week after week, month after month, and now, year after year. This is burnout and it’s becoming the silent epidemic among physicians.

Out of this pandemic, a need to decompress and connect emerged for many of us and, thus, something beautiful was born: the AdventHealth Orchestra.

This new project started July 2020 at AdventHealth Orlando, at the height of the Delta surge, and it’s become more than a creative outlet for physicians. The AdventHealth Orchestra offers physicians, clinicians and health care workers the incredible opportunity to reflect, bond and heal through music.

Tuning in to Physician Burnout

Music is a universal language. Personally, I have always used music to decompress – whether it be playing piano, violin or listening to music, as all can be especially soothing during tough times. When I sit down at our periodic practices and play, I can feel the stress melting away.

Vincent Hsu, MD plays violin in the AdventHealth Orchestra
Vincent Hsu, MD plays violin in the AdventHealth Orchestra.

Physician burnout is real, and as someone on the frontlines, I’ve fallen victim to it during the pandemic.

In fact, a recent Physician Burnout and Depression report researchers surveyed 13,069 physicians across 29 specialties between June 29, 2021, and Sept. 26, 2021, to assess their experiences with burnout, stress, and more. Of the physicians surveyed, 47% reported feeling burned out—an increase from the 42% who said the same a year prior.

I can count myself as part of these statistics and I unequivocally know that participating in the AdventHealth Orchestra has helped improve my overall well-being. When playing an instrument, I can focus on the present and engage with other orchestra members in a meaningful way.

I have known some of my colleagues in the orchestra for years, but others I only knew as acquaintances and some I had never met before until we sat down to play music together. We share a common bond as health care workers, managing the same internal struggles of stress and burnout. But now we have a stronger bond and friendship through our music together. It’s a double dose of healing therapy for me and a great source of joy.

The Healing Power of Music

Omayra Mansfield, MD, emergency medicine physician and chief medical officer for AdventHealth Apopka, as well as the chief medical officer for the AdventHealth Central Florida Division’s physician experience

Omayra Mansfield, MD
Omayra Mansfield, MD, emergency medicine physician and chief medical officer for AdventHealth Apopka, as well as the chief medical officer for the AdventHealth Central Florida Division’s physician experience

As an emergency medicine physician, I’ve seen just how easy it is for those who are overwhelmed and stressed to fall into negative habits. And for those on the frontlines of the pandemic, finding constructive relief from COVID-19’s constant, chronic stress has never been more important.

We all need to heal from the trauma of the pandemic and surrounding yourself with others who are facing similar challenges – like the team does through the AdventHealth Orchestra – is a fantastic example of healthy and healing outlet for clinicians.

A National Institutes of Health study shows playing a musical instrument is a prescription to guard against the daily pressures of life. Therapeutic outcomes of playing music include better communication skills, improved emotional release, and decreased anxiety and agitation. In addition, musical training promotes cognitive function and a connection to others.

AdventHealth’s orchestra offers colleagues both opportunities, creating a beautiful, memorable positive experience.

The AdventHealth Orchestra during a recent performance.
The AdventHealth Orchestra plays during a recent performance.

If you think about it, an orchestra is similar to how we collaborate in health care. If we do not work together cohesively, we lose harmony. But when we work and play with our colleagues, the outcome can be magnificent. It’s these encouraging moments that give me hope to push forward into the next day.

Finding your Rhythm to Self-Care

There are a multitude of healthy outlets to engage in. Some may choose to create music, while others are more drawn to reading or mediation. Another popular activity is anything physical – yoga and running are particularly good. No matter what it is – it has to work with your schedule, you have to do it regularly and it has to bring you joy.

Another form of healing therapy for some is talking things through. In fact, a recent Becker’s Healthcare article identified that for physicians struggling with overwhelming stress, confidential therapy sessions provided significant help.

AdventHealth believes so strongly in supporting the health and well-being of our physicians and advanced practitioners that we’ve developed a website, AdventHealth.com/ProviderWellbeing, full of resources designed specifically for clinicians’ unique needs.

Within our organization’s Central Florida Division, we’ve gone a step further and now offer all credentialed physicians and advanced practitioners – as well as their family members – six complimentary counseling sessions through The Center for Physician Wellbeing.

I’m proud of the investments AdventHealth has made to address burnout, but know we still have more to go on this journey. The work that we’ve already accomplished in improving the physician experience is just beginning, but it is critical work and its work I’m honored to be part of.

In the AdventHealth Orchestra, physicians, clinicians and team members come together to help others feel whole through the healing power of music

The AdventHealth Orchestra

The First All-Employee Orchestra in the National Health Care Systems History

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