Resident Wellness

Caring for Our Residents and Fellows

Heirarchy of Needs

Medicine is a stressful profession with many demands on our time, our attention, and our energy. All this takes a toll though. At any given time 25-75% of residents are burned out (1) and residency is the “nadir of personal wellness in a physician’s career.” (2) Physician burnout has serious consequences; it leads to poorer patient care and increased medical errors along with increased rates of substance abuse, suicide, and intent to leave practice. (3) It is our duty to ourselves and to our patients to maintain our optimal physical and emotional health.

We often talk about how important it is to take care of our patients but rarely talk about taking care of ourselves. We want you to care for yourselves just as you would care for any of your patients. As very high functioning individuals, physicians routinely satisfy the top needs of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Physicians across the spectrum experience significant rates of burnout. Although the practice of medicine can be immensely rewarding and fulfilling, the intense demands often take a toll on our personal well-being. Burnout has serious repercussions for physicians and increases problematic behaviors such as alcohol use, strains our personal relationships, and can even lead to suicidal ideation. (4) We must make our self-care a priority.

Burnout and satisfaction - graph 1
Shanafelt TD, et al. Burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance among US physicians relative to the general US population. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172 (8):1377-1385.
Burnout and satisfaction - graph 2
Shanafelt TD, et al. Burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance among US physicians relative to the general US population. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172 (8):1377-1385.

The Karasek ModelLoss of autonomy over our environment has a significant contribution to our perception of personal control. The Karasek model is a useful framework to think about how factors like demand (for example, work hours) and control (flexible scheduling) can balance physician stress. (5) But there are many other contributors such as excessive workload, administrative burdens, a decline in the sense of meaning that physicians derive from their work, and difficulty integrating personal and professional life. (6)

Cooper seeks to foster an environment of resiliency among our clinicians and staff. Cooper’s wellness website highlights just a portion of the many ways we focus on the health and well being of our physicians including regular posts with mindfulness or yoga videos, inspirational articles, updates on wellness initiatives at Cooper, and ways for everyone to become involved.

  1. IsHak WW, et al. Burnout during residency training. J Grad Med Educ. 2009;1(2):236.
  2. Lefebvre D. Perspective: resident physician wellness: A new hope. Acad Med. 2012;13(5):598.
  3. Linzer M, et al. (2002), Physician stress: results from the physician worklife study. Stress and Health, 18:37.
  4. Shanafelt TD, et al. Burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance among US physicians relative to the general US population. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172 (8):1377-1385.
  5. Karasek RA. Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: Implications for job redesign. Admin Sci Quarterly. 1979;24(2):285-308.
  6. Shanafelt TD, et al. The well-being of physicians. Am J Med. 2003;114 (6):513-519.

Primary Care

Residents, fellows, and students often are so focused on their work and their clinical and academic responsibilities that basic healthcare maintenance falls to the wayside. We value your health and want to make your healthcare a priority so we have set aside two half-day sessions every year for you to schedule your regular health maintenance and follow-up care. We have included some resources below but please feel free to use other physicians or therapists you feel comfortable with as well.

Behavioral Health

Therapy session

We understand and recognize that many people experience stress as they combine busy lives and the demands of studies, work, and making time for family and friends. Individuals cope with this continuous state of stress differently but, as the stress builds, many are not able to cope with the stress. The result of continuous stress may cause a disruption in your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.

The Graduate Medical Education (GME) is here to support you and your needs. We offer a variety of support services that will not only help you recognize and identify your stressors, but will help you learn how to cope and relieve the stress in a healthy manner. All the services offered are completely anonymous. Below are the resources to support you.

The Carebridge benefit allows Cooper residents and their immediate families up to five (5) free counseling sessions per issue (such as depression, anxiety, stress, grief, substance abuse, relationship conflict, and other emotional concerns). Services are obtained by calling 800-437-0911.  You can access a wide variety of resources using the Carebridge secure member website, First time users should register with Cooper’s access code: WBPNF. You can also download the Carebridge App on your smartphone.

Carebridge will try to match you with a counselor that also participates in your health insurance (whether it’s a Cooper medical plan or another one) for continued treatment after the fifth session. You will likely have a copay and/or deductible to meet for ongoing care. The service is completely confidential and no identifying information is reported back to Cooper.

There are also unlimited telephone resources and referrals for a wide variety of life management concerns including the following:

  • Stress Management
  • Parenting/Child Care
  • College Planning
  • Financial Wellness
  • Eldercare Resources
  • Relocation
  • Convenience Services 

The Rowan Wellness Center has a service called Protocall.  This is a public safety number (856-256-4911) for crisis and is available 24 hours a day. If you call, identify yourself as a resident and you will be able to speak to the counselor on call. The counselor would speak to you and has the ability to deal with a crisis situation by connecting with local emergency services. The counselor from Protocall can give you information to connect you with the Rowan SOM psychiatry team and you can call during regular business hours. 

Rowan SOM Department of Psychiatry is available for psychiatry and psychology. They have a great deal of experience working with both medical students and residents. Their office is open Monday-Friday from 8:00-5:00 am. You can call directly 856-482-9000 and you will receive a call back by one of their psychiatrists. You will have to say you are a Cooper resident to ensure that you are funneled to the proper channels and that your Cooper Amerihealth plan is appropriately billed. You will have a copay for the sessions.

They have a lovely, quiet off-site location.
100 Century Parkway, Suite 350
Mount Laurel, NJ

We appreciate all that you do in our health care system and recognize that everyone needs help sometimes! Please give us feedback and we will continue to work on your behalf.


Group exercise classesThere are everyday activities you can do to promote your physical health and boost your mood. Taking the stairs every day in the parking garage and in the hospital is a great place to start. Many smartphones have pedometer apps such as the Pacer app which allows BMI, weight, and blood pressure monitoring as well. You can purchase a FitBit and challenge yourself to 10,000 steps per day (equals ~ 5 miles). Team challenges can be a great way to motivate overnight teams.

Walking Routes

Take a moment for yourself or gather friends for the following area walking routes. Click on the route name for a map, or click here for a combined map of all routes. 


Alarm clockSleep hygiene is crucial to maintaining your emotional and physical wellbeing. Recognize the signs of sleep deprivation since it can be insidious. It can include falling asleep in conferences, irritability, cutting corners on tasks, repeatedly checking your work, difficulty focusing, or feeling like you don’t care.

Establish healthy sleep habits. Try to go to bed at the same time each night in a quiet, cool, dark environment. Turn off your phones and pagers. Avoid TV, computers, and LED screens prior to bed. Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full. Try relaxation techniques if you have a hard time going to sleep. When you are on call, sleep as much as you can before and after call. Minimize bright light exposure after you leave from a night shift; wear sunglasses!

Caffeine can be used strategically but not as a crutch. Only take it when you have greater sleepiness and when you are not expecting to go to bed soon. Also keep in mind that tolerance may develop and that sympathetic activation can increase anxiety, tachycardia, etc. Alcohol should not be used for sleep; it actually disrupts sleep architecture and there are obvious dependence issues.

Remember that, in NJ, it is a criminal offence under Maggie’s law to drive if you have been continuously awake for 24 hours. Make arrangements to carpool or take public transportation. GME will reimburse taxis as well.

Hydrate When You Can

Water bottleResidents rarely make it to water. Staying hydrated when things get busy is hard and there are often 14 things standing between a resident and the next water fountain. And often a cool drink of water can be even more invigorating than a cup of coffee and keep you going without getting dehydrated. We will be giving all the residents and students Cooper water bottles to keep with you in your white coat. 

Good Food Options

Cafeteria food options
  • Improved nutritional options in the Cooper Court Cafeteria, which is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. as well as Saturday, Sunday, and holidays from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • Healthy Initiative in the Micro-market next to the cafeteria (swipe access 24 hours a day)
  • Oasis is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Use “Doctor’s Orders”: When time is tight, ordering, waiting for food, and paying in the cafeteria can keep residents from getting sustenance. Oasis will prepare food for pick-up. Just dial extension 8-1595 from any phone in the hospital to place an order.
  • Café Excellence is open 24 hours a day.
  • Fruit available in resident lounge.
  • Call night care packages with fruit and health food options.
  • ShopRite and Wegmans will deliver groceries to your home. ShopRite will also drop off to the Center for Family Services on Benson St, across from the parking garage.
  • Food Truck Tuesday at CMSRU.

Resident Resources

  • Lounge: This is meant to be a calm space where you can reflect and focus your energy. It is meant to be an inspiring, clean, and quiet place for solitude and reflection. Respect your colleagues need for a thoughtful retreat zone as well.
  • Commonly used hospital numbers: Coming soon
  • Get two hours of sunlight each week (and wear your sunblock!)
  • Consider buying a light box to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Most people use them for 30 minutes in the morning. (Don’t use it at night; it will keep you up! )
  • Safety Escorts: 856-342-2400
  • Active house staff council:

Support sessions

Group team building We have started regularly scheduled support sessions where residents can share their war stories. This shared experience of storytelling among peers helps residents cope with feelings, doubts, and challenges. Closed-door, resident-only gatherings can ensure a safe outlet for residents to discuss their struggles. Focusing on stories of vulnerability rather than heroism helps overwhelmed new residents to feel reassured that people who are now thriving have gone through similar experiences. Make storytelling a ritual, at a set time each month. As soon as one person starts sharing a story, it’s a floodgate and others start to open up.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask about common shared emotional experiences:

  • Did you ever have doubts that you weren’t right for medicine or that medicine wasn’t right for you?
  • When was a time you were intimidated by an issue of illness, patient death, or relations with a patient’s family members?
  • Describe a time when you felt like you were sacrificing your personal well-being for medicine. What were some of your coping strategies?
  • Describe a situation when you were really unsure or not confident about what the right thing to do was. How did you deal with it?

Big Brother/Sister systems

Cohort systems with mentoring among residents who are closer to the experience than faculty are a great source of support.

“The coping strategies associated with a higher degree of emotional exhaustion include keeping stress to oneself, concentrating on what to do next, and going on as if nothing happened.” Lemaire and Wallace: Not all coping strategies are created equal: A mixed methods study exploring physicians’ self-reported coping strategies. BMC Health Services Research 2010 10:208.

Wellness Days

Relaxing with puppyHalf-day sessions will be offered throughout the year with a variety of stations and activities meant to focus and improve student and physician wellness. Some of these initiatives include:

  • Massage
  • Facials
  • Yoga classes
  • Cooking demos/lessons
  • Reading stations with short stories, poetry
  • Healthy food option station, fresh produce
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Laughing workshop
  • TED talks: 7 most inspiring well-being and fitness TED talks
    • Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days
    • Derek Sivers: Keep your goals to yourself
    • John Wooden: The difference between winning and success
    • A.J. Jacobs: How healthy living nearly killed me
    • Jamie Oliver: Teach every child about food
    • Dean Ornish: Healing through diet

Life Outside the Hospital

Find ways to value the precious little time you have to yourself. Hire a maid so you don’t waste a few hours cleaning and you come home to a clean house. Bundle your chores and do what you can online.

Use Cooper Solutions! Located on the first floor of Dorrance, they offer many convenient services and are open Mon-Fri 7:00-5:00. Examples include shoe repair, battery replacement for watches, post office, ordering flowers/gift baskets to be sent anywhere in the world. You can order cakes which are delivered to Cooper or its affiliates or food from local restaurants which can be charged directly to payroll (Short Hills Deli, Good Foods to Go, Food Works, Pat’s Select Restaurant). There is a dry cleaner that picks up and drops off Tuesday and Friday. They also offer discounted tickets for the zoo, Franklin Institute, theaters among many others. They even have apartment listings! And they have a notary public.

You can access through Departments > Cooper Solutions to see a full list of their offerings.


Find clever ways to integrate family and loved ones. Consider occasional family dinners in the hospital when residents are on call.

The gift shop is an option to pick up a few quick things like toothbrushes or razors.

The Humanities

Involvement in the arts is crucial to the development of the physician as a well-rounded person. Residents spend so much time working as doctors that their world narrows – contributing to a sense of groundlessness and imbalance. We should nurture and share all of our non-medical passions too. Many of us have a wide range of interests that get sacrificed when we start residency but cultivating those other activities expands our horizons and ultimately makes us better able to care for our patients and ourselves.

We strongly encourage participation in the many cultural events in the Philadelphia region.  Some general resources that can be accessed include Philly Fun Guide, Philadelphia Weekly, and, but word-of-mouth and going out together with friends is probably even better!

Important Numbers

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 and 800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
  • National Hotline:
  • Protocall: 856-256-4911
  • Carebridge: 800-437-0911,
  • Rowan SOM Psychiatry: 856-482-9000
  • Security Desk: 856-342-2400
  • Crisis Intervention: 888-596-4447