Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Saying Yes to Joy in Practice


Our patients and colleagues can inspire us. Being open to having fun and making genuine relationships in clinical settings can promote wellness. 

We’re all familiar with the effects of burnout, some of which are exhaustion, decreased quality of life, less self-care, and lower quality patient care and satisfaction; those who spend <20% of time on meaningful activity are more likely to experience burnout.


Joy can be a remedy for burnout. Below are some tips to cultivate joy in clinical practice: 


1. Find or reconnect with your purpose.

Think about why you became a physician. For me, it was a desire to help children and adolescents as they struggled with mental health issues and to intervene earlier for those struggling with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and/or ADHD so that they can accomplish their own goals.  


2. For those whose practice allows, value long-term relationship with patients.

I have the pleasure of working with patients through their developmental stages. These long-term relationships bring me joy. I relish the interpersonal connections I make with teens and young adults as people and not just as doctor and patient. I find joy in asking about their high school play, or their championship flag football game, or their first day of work at their new job. Because of the long-term relationship, I’m able to have a broader perspective on progress made over the years. For example, a young adult I’ve worked with since high school experienced several stressors the previous few weeks and felt her progress was tenuous at the moment. Because of our long-term relationship, I was able to help her reframe the current situation as a bump in the road. This helped her feel more hopeful. 


3. Be inspired by your patients.

I’m continually inspired by my patients. A young adult patient I’ve worked with since middle school recently graduated college, despite psychiatric and medical illnesses. Seeing their graduation photo in cap and gown brought me immense joy. When I’m having an off day, I look at that photo.


4. Celebrate any and all accomplishments by your patients.

No accomplishment is too small (or too big). For example, a patient using a skill outside of session, passing a class, walking the dog, interacting more with parents or friends; these are all accomplishments to be celebrated. 


5. Find joy in supporting colleagues.

My colleague expressed feeling ineffective with a patient. Helping to reframe the progress as slower rather than none alleviated my coworker’s feelings of discouragement. 


6. Reflect.

Reflection can help maintain meaning and purpose by increasing self-awareness and insight and recognizing the positive effect you have on someone. This can be done by asking yourself questions like, “What inspired me today? What touched my heart?”. I also find reflecting on clinical experiences and writing about them for CLOSLER helps me attain this goal. 


David Brooks, the “New York Times” columnist, delivered the quotation below in a graduation speech:


“Happiness involves a victory for self. Joy involves transcendence of self. Happiness comes from accomplishments. Joy is the present that life gives you as you give away your gifts. The core point is that happiness is good, but joy is better. It’s smart to enjoy happiness, but it’s smarter still to put yourself in situations where you might experience joy.” 










This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.