The Buddy System - Life improvement strategies for the surgeon that wants more ... in 10 minutes - Episode 20

Pump the brakes on your week and take 10 minutes to make your life as a surgeon just a little better…

This week, we are welcoming to the mini-Podcast Dr. Lisa Merlo,  a licensed clinical psychologist at the University of Florida. Dr. Merlo talks to us about physician impairment and ways that we can help physician wellness. Physicians are not immune from developing the impaired conditions as they often experience sleep deprivation, personal loss and many other issues which can result in: alcohol-drug use, burnout, depression and/or cognitive decline. Hospital policies, often dissuade physicians from seeking help. As a result, there are many physicians who could be restored to health and perform better, but are not and this ends up impacting their practice and patient care.

Dr. Merlo gave us a strategy to address potential impairment: through a buddy system. The Buddy System allows for confidentiality and allows us to be be proactive in addressing potential impairment to prevent it from getting worse. 


How does she suggest to setup a Buddy System? By doing the following:

  1. Identifying a colleague with whom you have frequent interaction

  2. Giving them explicit permission to ask about your well-being, intervene and step up

  3. Allowing the buddy to check-in with you and express concern

  4. Letting the relationship be mutually beneficial

Most importantly, start thinking about who a good buddy would be, and setup a time to talk to them this week! 

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Merlo, she is a licensed clinical psychologist. She has completed postdoctoral fellowships in clinical child/pediatric psychology and drug abuse epidemiology and prevention. She currently serves as Assistant Residency Program Director for Psychotherapy and is active in the education of medical students, residents, and other health profession students. Dr. Merlo also serves as the Director of Research for the Professionals Resource Network, Inc. (the State monitoring program for distressed and impaired healthcare professionals). As a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT), Dr. Merlo collaborates with faculty from other colleges and universities, as well as the Area Health Education Centers across Florida, to provide training in motivational interviewing for health professions students, faculty members, tobacco cessation counselors, school personnel, and other healthcare providers.

The Buddy System is a perfect example of how surgeons can improve their effectiveness inside and outside of the OR.