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Physician Retreats Bust 'Conspiracy of Silence'

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, October 3, 2013

A group of Florida physicians opts to skip the golf course and instead, climbs an 11,000-foot mountain range to get away from healthcare. In the process, the doctors learn to work together and hone their leadership skills "under a carpet of stars."

In what Herdley Paolini, PhD, LP, PSS, the facilitator of Florida Hospital's Labor Day weekend camping trip called a "leadership development retreat," 10 doctors took 15 hours of continuing medical education while hiking 30 miles in the woods and mountains at Flat Tops in Colorado, about 200 miles due west from Boulder.

At one point, they had to trudge seven miles while running low on potable water. Some of them had never camped before. No computers, cell phones, or electronic devices were allowed on the trip. Pen and paper were allowed.

The physicians learned to depend on each other. "Just seeing the bonds that developed was great," Paolini told me. "With doctors, sometimes there's this conspiracy of silence and nobody talks about things. Here, the resolve was great," Paolini says. "They were empowered and worked together, under a carpet of stars."

Paolini heads Florida Hospital's Physician Support Services in Orlando, FL, which sponsors several retreats every year for doctors. Paolini ran the program with co-facilitator Burt Bertram, EdD, LMFT, LMHC.

The doctors—all part of the Florida Hospital system—talked about healthcare against a beautiful natural backdrop. Do they have enough time for their patients? Are they fulfilling their expectations as part of a multidisciplinary team? After the camping trip, one participant wrote to Paolini: "I learned new ways to better myself, and improve my leadership skills, like deep listening and self-reflection."

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