Saf Health Work.  2018 Dec;9(4):381-387. 10.1016/

Impact of Coping and Communication Skills Program on Physician Burnout, Quality of Life, and Emotional Flooding

  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA, USA.
  • 2Department of Nursing, University of Virginia School of Nursing, Charlottesville, VA, USA.
  • 3Department of Internal Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA, USA.


Physician behaviors that undermine a culture of safety have gained increasing attention as health-care organizations strive to create a culture of safety and reduce medical errors. We developed, implemented, and assessed a course to teach physicians skills regarding effective coping and interpersonal communication skills and present our results regarding outcomes.
We examined a professional development program specifically designed to address unprofessional or distressed behaviors of physicians, and we evaluated the impact on burnout, quality of life, and emotional flooding scores of the physicians. Assessments of burnout, quality of life, and emotional flooding were assessed preintervention and postintervention.
Results demonstrated statistically significant reductions over time in physicians' emotional flooding and emotional exhaustion (EE). Specifically, using a Wilcoxon Signed-Rank test, results revealed that flooding scores at follow-up were statistically significantly lower than at baseline, V = 590, p < 0.05, and EE and personal accomplishment distributions were found to significantly deviate from normal as indicated by Shapiro–Wilks tests (p < 0.05). A Wilcoxon signed-rank test indicated that EE scores were significantly higher at baseline compared to follow-up 1, V = 285, p < 0.05.
We conclude that the physician participants who enrolled in the educational skills training program improved scores on emotional flooding and EE and that this may be indicative of improved skills related to their experiences and learning in the program. These improved skills in physicians may have a positive impact on the overall culture of safety in the health system setting.


Coping skills; Communication; Professional burnout; Physicians
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