Background: Health care systems around the country are struggling with faculty and staff burnout. It is established that burnout leads to higher employee turnover and poorer patient outcomes. The Big Read is a hospitalist-led institution-wide initiative in which a large number of faculty/staff/trainees/students are invited to read and discuss the same book within a 3 months time frame. The goal is to reduce burnout and improve attitudes around end-of-life care.

Methods: The entire medical community was invited to join The Big Read. We advertised via a health-system wide weekly email blast and at key meetings. We chose “When Breath Becomes Air” by Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a memoir that chronicles the values and decisions around the death of a young neurosurgeon. Participants selected one of 75 sessions to attend and received a coupon for a free book. Sessions were facilitated by volunteers throughout the medical community. We created a facilitators’ guide that included suggested questions and talking points. Each participant was emailed an anonymous eight question survey using a four-point Likert scale focusing on feelings of burnout and end of life within 24 hours of completing the session.

Results: 1,100 participants signed up for the Big Read. 1,000 books were distributed. 701 participants attended at least one of the 75 sessions, many led by hospitalists. The survey response rate was 55%. After attending a session, 95% of participants reported having a better understanding of the importance of end-of-life care for patients; 96% reported having a better understanding of why it is important to elicit patient’s values when making plans for end-of-life care; 98% reported feeling more engaged with the community.

Conclusions: The Big Read is an innovative, highly portable, relatively inexpensive means of aligning an important institutional initiative (end of life care) with employee well-being. 55% survey response rate and very positive survey data suggest an institutional impact, but results are early.

IMAGE 1: The Big Read: Impact on Personal Wellbeing