Massachusetts Medical Society: Episode 14: Loosening Burnout’s Grip with Empathic Care

Episode 14: Loosening Burnout’s Grip with Empathic Care

Loosening Burnout’s Grip with Empathic Care

Course Overview

After learning about the causes of burnout, how to cope with it, and how to convey one’s concerns to the higher-ups in an organization, Marie meets Dr. Helen Riess, a practicing psychiatrist who directs the empathy research program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Helen believes that the rigors and pressures of medical education, training and practice deplete physicians of their natural ability to empathize and connect with patients. She describes how physicians can form meaningful empathic connections to patients during the limited time of an office visit. A quick gaze conveying that “I see you” acknowledges the patient. Actively including the patient in reviewing lab and imaging tests may improve the patient’s experience of the physician and the visit. Helen helps physicians to notice and decode patients’ facial expressions and body postures. When the patient feels understood, this improves the care experience for doctor and patient alike, enhancing the well-being of both parties. Helen coaches Marie to encourage dialogue through open-ended questions, and to artfully and tactfully close discussions in a timely manner without giving the impression of rushing. As these skills are mastered, a mutually satisfying connection may emerge, enhancing the personal and professional fulfillment of the caregiver in a way that may mitigate the stress and burnout that is rampant.  Cognitive reframing and self-regulation are additional skills that help a physician to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the emotions of shared experiences that patients bring to the exam room and office.  

Learning Objective

  • Identify methods to establish empathy in clinical situations, utilizing body language and mindful dialogue with patients so as to improve the doctor-patient relationship and diminish physician burnout.


Helen Riess, MD 
I’m a psychiatrist and I’ve developed an empathy training approach based on research in the neurobiology and physiology of empathy. This approach was tested in pilot studies and a randomized, controlled trial at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). As a result of this work, I now serve as the chief scientist for Empathetics, an innovative company that provides empathy and interpersonal skills training for medical professionals. We leverage scientifically proven methods that enhance human relationships and make medical practice more effective and efficient. I’m also a part-time associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and I serve as the director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program at MGH. I’m a core member of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, and I serve on the faculty of the Harvard Macy Institute. I completed my residency and chief residency at MGH and Harvard Medical School. I have devoted my career to teaching and research in the art and science of the patient-doctor relationship. I received my MD from Boston University School of Medicine and my BA from Wesleyan University.

Course Fees

Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) Member: Free       
Non-MMS Member: Free       
Allied Health Professionals: Free



CME Credit

1.00 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™

Accreditation Statement

This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of the Massachusetts Medical Society and Physician Health Services, Inc. The Massachusetts Medical Society is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians. 

AMA Credit Designation Statement

The Massachusetts Medical Society designates this enduring material for a maximum of 1.00 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

This activity meets the criteria for the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine for risk management study.

National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
Physician Assistants may claim a maximum of 1.00 Category 1 credit for completing this activity. NCCPA accepts AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ from organizations accredited by ACCME or a recognized state medical society.

Exam/Assessment: Please respond to the reflective statement at the end of the course to receive AMA PRA Category 1 Credits.™ 

MOC Approval Statement
Through the American Board of Medical Specialties ("ABMS") ongoing commitment to increase access to practice relevant Maintenance of Certification ("MOC") Activities through the ABMS Continuing Certification Directory , this activity has met the requirements as an MOC Part II CME Activity (apply toward general CME requirement) for the following ABMS Member Boards:

Allergy and Immunology
Family Medicine
Medical Genetics and Genomics
Nuclear Medicine
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Plastic Surgery
Preventive Medicine
Psychiatry & Neurology
Thoracic Surgery

Activity Term

Original Release Date: January 24, 2019        
Review Date: N/A     
Termination Date: January 24, 2021

System Requirements

Windows, XP, Vista, 7, 8  
Mac OSX 10.6 higher

Most modern browsers including:   
Firefox 18.0+  
Chrome 26+  
Safari 5+  
Flash player is required for some Online CME courses.
iOS devices beginning with OS version 5 or higher (includes, iPhone, iPad and iTouch devices)  
Android devices including tablets and phones.  
Windows RT and tablets on Windows 8 are also supported. 


When you click "Purchase," your Order Total on the next screen will be $0.


Copyright © 2019. Massachusetts Medical Society, 860 Winter Street, Waltham Woods Corporate Center, Waltham, MA 02451-1411

(781) 893-4610 | (781) 893-3800 | Member Information Hotline: (800) 322-2303 x7311