Today officially hits the two week mark of my time here in Washington D.C.. So far, it’s been a lot of catching up on background research for work and adjusting to 9 to 5 life, while simultaneously finding every free moment to explore the city. Having never lived in a big city, I’m constantly in awe of how easy it is to walk 10 minutes to read a book in front of the White House, or spontaneously spend a Saturday museum-hopping, or constantly run into diverse cohorts of people and protests and events.
I am working at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine as a health policy intern under the medicine division. My main project that I’ll be working on this summer is the Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience, and its corresponding consensus study. This initiative seeks to examine the causes and effects of clinician burnout, as well as organizational ways and policy solutions to mend the epidemic, such as altering the Electronic Health Record. Physicians, on average, experience twice the amount of burnout as compared to professionals in other fields. The increasingly prevalent rate of burnout in turn leads to alarmingly higher rates of suicide (more than twice than that of the general population) and depression (experienced by almost 40% of physicians). Clinical burnout is thus inherently tied to quality of patient care, as well as the over economic and physical productivity of national health care.
As a political science, economics, and history student, I have little experience with health care or science. Even the policy aspect seemed to fly over my head at first, since most of my academic background has been grounded in theory, past behavior and established patterns. I was intimidated to dive into a project and topic that was already so alive and dynamic and quite frankly, out of my league. That being said, I immediately saw a lot of the same skills I used in school, transfer over to my assigned work. One of my major tasks is to help create an online “knowledge hub”, or repository of past clinical burnout research and studies for public access. I spend my days combing through literature and systematic reviews, major research studies, and other publications to summarize and analyze for the Action Collab. The Action Collab also publishes various discussion and perspective papers for dissemination and conferences, so it’s been quite the experience participating in conference calls and staff meetings of top experts and physicians in the countries talk about their contributions and ideas for the papers.
All in all, I’m excited for all that I’ll learn and experience both at work and in the city, throughout the next 6 weeks. From going to jazz in the sculpture gardens after work to people-watching on the Lincoln Memorial steps late at night, having lunch with coworkers in the National Portrait gallery to attending the annual congressional baseball game, I don’t think I’ll ever run out of things to do here. This city is absolutely bursting at the seams with energy and purpose.