The Physician Wellness Advisory Committee began in 2019 with the aim to identify and make recommendations relating to advancing the wellbeing of physicians. It now includes representatives from each of the Clinical Departments, as well as members from Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) and Providence Care Hospital (PCH).
Dr. Louise Rang from the Department of Emergency Medicine is a member of the Committee and says it was first stared as an idea two years ago by KHSC Chief of Staff Dr. Mike Fitzpatrick, who saw the need for a dedicated focus on physician wellbeing. “Since then, it has been skillfully steered by Dr. Leslie Flynn, who has had a career-long focus on physician wellness. Now the Committee has grown to involve almost every specialty,” she says. For Dr. Rang, the collaboration of the Committee is the start point that brings physicians together to discuss wellness. She says, “We may have different needs as Departments and Divisions, but the gathering of people at one table helps us co-ordinate and adapt initiatives, and allows us to benefit from the scale of organization-wide expertise and energy.”
Dr. Rang is most excited about the up-and-running peer support program the Committee has supported. She says, “This program provides a structure for physicians to talk to another colleague when they are facing something hard: a bad outcome, a patient complaint or a lawsuit. Over 40 physicians have been trained to provide peer support by Dr. Jo Shapiro, an otolaryngologist from Harvard, who really is the world leader in developing and training physicians for these programs.”
Dr. Rang says for many years, the model of health care improvement was the Triple Aim: improving the patient care experience while improving the health of the population, all at a lower per capita cost. Several years ago, it became the Quadruple Aim, where the clinician's experience was added, recognizing that health care worker burnout had significant effects on the whole health care system. Even better than simply avoiding burnout, the aim is to restore "joy at work." She has been able to make a difference in her Department as a lead in physician wellness. “Almost three years ago, my Department Head, Dr. David Messenger, saw the value in creating a position dedicated to physician wellness and professional sustainability,” she says. “Since then, I have been able to work on initiatives for our Department such as a resident wellness curriculum, gratitude efforts, surveys aimed at measuring both staff and resident wellness, and various initiatives aimed at building camaraderie. Having a Department Head and Departmental colleagues who are so invested in supporting and participating in these efforts has been really fantastic.”
Dr. Krishna Rao from the Department of Ophthalmology says he joined the Physician Wellness Advisory Committee “as an opportunity to be part of doing important work for our profession and institution, to share ideas about physician wellness and to have an opportunity to get to know and learn from like-minded colleagues in other disciplines.” Dr. Rao is energized by the current initiatives the Committee has been working on, and the future initiatives. “The initiatives that have been implemented include: a mechanism for physicians and residents to access a family doctor if they don't have one, the ability for physicians to confidentially access mental health and counselling services directly if needed, gaining institutional support for physician wellness programs, and the implementation a peer support program,” he says. “Other Committee initiatives currently in progress include further development and enhancement of the SEAMO Physician Wellness website, the development of programs to assist and provide support for career transition planning for physicians, inviting noted authors and experts in physician wellness to our institution as guest speakers to offer further education in topics surrounding physician wellness, and continuing to develop enhanced wellness programs to address emerging needs.”
Dr. Rao reports back to his Department on a monthly basis regarding the work the Committee is doing. “This communication also serves as a reminder to busy clinicians to evaluate their own personal wellness, work-life balance and as well serve to remind colleagues of the local physician wellness resources that are available,” he says. Dr. Rao says he is delighted the Committee is an all-inclusive community with representation from all disciplines. “The support from Dr. Jane Philpott (Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences), the Faculty of Health Sciences at large and SEAMO has been tremendous. This continued and ongoing support is crucial for fostering continued collaboration, for the sharing of ideas and for finding creative solutions,” he says. “Raising awareness and actively promoting physician wellness initiatives at this unprecedented time is even more important than ever before.”