Writing for Personal and Professional Wellness

José E. Rodríguez, MD, FAAFP | Amy Locke, MD, FAAFP | Kendall M. Campbell, MD, FAAFP

PRiMER. 2024;8:8.

Published: 2/7/2024 | DOI: 10.22454/PRiMER.2024.663516


Writing is a part of every academic career in medicine, yet many busy clinicians have difficulty finding time to write and may see it as extra work during their time off. This professional development perspective offers a reframing of writing, not as extra work, but as a wellness activity. The National Academy of Medicine’s (NAM) National Plan for Health Workforce Well-being identified seven priority areas where action should be taken to increase wellness in the workforce. Professional writing can “support mental health and reduce stigma” (an explicit NAM priority area) by allowing workers to express gratitude, practice reflection, and write without a deadline. Writing also addresses the NAM priority area of “create and sustain positive work and learning environments and culture” by giving opportunities to support your colleagues, invest in your team, celebrate success, find satisfaction in the sciences, and seek and find healing. By intentionally writing to process emotion and manage work stress, we shift the paradigm for busy clinicians to improve their well-being while simultaneously contributing to academic success.

Academic clinicians have multiple demands on their time, and many find themselves without enough time to work on scholarly pursuits. This problem is near universal, and while promotion criteria are changing, written products are still a significant part of the process. Therefore, writing is a skill that all of us in academia will need to find time to practice.

The best solution to finding time for writing is to have protected or supported time during the workday. We suggest an alternative approach to how the work of writing is perceived, especially when it is done on nights and weekends or other times of inconvenience. Because of high rates of burnout among family and other physicians1 we suggest writing for wellness. By writing for wellness, we mean using writing to deal with the stressors and challenges of work; increased clinical and educational demands and the minority tax for those faculty who are underrepresented in medicine. Writing for wellness could be an approach added to the resources to help physicians deal with burnout.1

Faculty members participate in activities for wellness in their personal lives, whether that be spending time with family, exercising, vacations, etc. Those wellness activities are typically performed in their free time. If writing is seen as a wellness activity, then faculty members may choose to write during their free time. We understand that our approach to writing for wellness may be antithetical to popular culture. It may take some a lot of processing to arrive at the point where something seen as intrusive to personal time, labor, a chore, a difficult task, can be viewed as a path to wellness. Considering writing as wellness is a total reset to our thinking and approach. All avenues should be explored that have the potential to help promote wellness for academic physicians. The National Academy of Medicine’s National Plan for Health Workforce Well-being identified seven priority areas in which actions can be taken to ensure that the health workforce can find healing and well-being.2 Two of those areas, "create and sustain positive work and learning environments and culture,” and “support mental health and reduce stigma,” are places where writing can be used. In Tables 1 and 2, we explain the benefits of writing for wellness, and the article types that fit into that category. 

Incorporating writing into a busy career is a difficult task. Tips for incorporating writing are in Table 3. Making writing a priority, like exercise, can benefit the rest of your day. Thinking of it as a wellness activity legitimizes its use outside of work hours.

Early-career faculty should see writing as part of their jobs, no matter what their academic percentage is. Presenting writing as wellness offers an achievable reframing. When we are ill, we seek medical attention, sooner rather than later. When we are seeking wellness, the same urgency should apply. Immediate actions can get us to a better place.

The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that as stress increases the coping must rise to meet it, regardless of whether we are a patient, physician, or both. The coping skills that have assisted faculty members through years of training, medical errors, balancing childcare with clinical demands, and other difficult situations in their careers might not be enough as stressors compound. Faculty need to identify emotions and their related physical symptoms and seek interventions to ensure long-standing success in medicine. Faculty need to be self-aware to match the appropriate level of intervention to the level of distress. Writing for wellness can be an additional coping strategy. Writing has been shown to be impactful for a variety of medical conditions and as a stress reliever.14 This approach means that there is an access portal to wellness that a faculty member can traverse when needed, especially in times of stress or disorder. Writing is a tool that a faculty member can always access for wellness.

In this professional development perspective, we have discussed writing as a potent tool to promote both personal and professional wellness. Writing narratives help us process our work and writing letters to the editor help us support each other and those we supervise. In addition, writing provides the ability to celebrate successes and practice reflection. Because we already spend our nonwork time in the activities listed above, it is natural to take what we are already doing and allow it to benefit our careers. While we present writing for wellness as something that can be done during free time, institutions can support time for writing during the workday as a wellness initiative for individual faculty members. Harnessing this tool in a way that improves not only our own personal health but also contributes to the national dialog and career promotion is a three-for-one impact that even the most efficient of us can appreciate.


  1. Rodriguez JE, Campbell KM, Fogarty JP, Williams RL. Underrepresented minority faculty in academic medicine: a systematic review of URM faculty development. Fam Med. 2014;46(2):100-104.
  2. Dzau VJ, Kirch D, Murthy V, Nasca T. National Plan for Health Workforce Well-Being. National Academies Press; 2022. doi:10.17226/26744
  3. Rodriguez JE, Delphin R. Teaching and learning moments: el médico de inmigración. Acad Med. 2008;83(4):418. doi:10.1097/ACM.0b013e318166a733
  4. Roche K, Mulchan S, Ayr-Volta L, et al. Pilot study on the impact of gratitude journaling or cognitive strategies on health care workers. J Pediatr Health Care. 2023;37(4):414-424. doi:10.1016/j.pedhc.2023.02.002
  5. Welch HG. Preparing manuscripts for submission to medical journals: the paper trail. Eff Clin Pract. 1999 May-Jun 1999;2(3):131-7.
  6. Palmer PJ. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life. 20th anniversary edition. Jossey-Basss; 2017.
  7. Laraway R. When they win, you win : being a great manager is simpler than you think. First edition. ed. St. Martin's Press; 2022:viii.
  8. Campbell KM, Washington JC, Baluchi D, Rodríguez JE. Submit it again! Learning from rejected manuscripts. PRiMER. 2022;6:42. doi:10.22454/PRiMER.2022.715584
  9. Campbell K, Fisher Z, Rodriguez J. Does Abolishing Tenure Impact the Scholarship and Longevity of Black and Latino Clinical Faculty in Academic Medicine? The Center for Underrepresented Minorities in Academic Medicine at the Florida State University College of Medicine; 2015:5.
  10. Campbell KM, Rodríguez JE, Brownstein NC, Fisher ZE. Status of tenure among black and latino faculty in academic medicine. J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2016;(Mar). doi:10.1007/s40615-016-0210-7
  11. Fisher ZE, Rodríguez JE, Campbell KM. A review of tenure for Black, Latino, and Native American faculty in academic medicine. South Med J. 2017;110(1):11-17. doi:10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000593
  12. Winnie K, Jackson JT, Ledford CJW. Writing rounds: an innovation to increase physician scientific dissemination. PRiMER Peer-Rev Rep Med Educ Res. 2021;5:34. doi:10.22454/PRiMER.2021.178789
  13. Remein CD, Childs E, Beard J, Demers LB, Benjamin EJ, Wingerter SL. “Getting started”: a pilot introductory narrative writing session for interprofessional faculty in academic health sciences. Adv Med Educ Pract. 2022;13:265-274. doi:10.2147/AMEP.S350246
  14. Sohal M, Singh P, Dhillon BS, Gill HS. Efficacy of journaling in the management of mental illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Fam Med Community Health. 2022;10(1):e001154. doi:10.1136/fmch-2021-001154

Lead Author

José E. Rodríguez, MD, FAAFP

Affiliations: University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Salt Lake City, UT


Amy Locke, MD, FAAFP - Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine, Chief Wellness Officer University of Utah Health, Salt Lake City, UT

Kendall M. Campbell, MD, FAAFP - Department of Family Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX

Corresponding Author

José E. Rodríguez, MD, FAAFP


Fetching other articles...

Loading the comment form...

Submitting your comment...

There are no comments for this article.

Downloads & Info


Related Content


Searching for articles...