The Jewish General Hospital Physician Wellbeing Program began as an attainable dream, in 2018. That June, I attended the first annual Canadian Women in Medicine conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, which inspired me to become involved in the field of Physician Wellbeing. That same year, I took a course offered by the McGill Department of Medicine, on the topic of Physician Wellbeing. Together, these two experiences taught me the foundations of how to begin to address wellbeing in our group of Emergency physicians.
Early in 2019, I submitted a proposal to the ED Chief, Dr. Marc Afilalo, requesting to form a Wellbeing Committee. We met, discussed, and he rapidly adopted the idea that this was an important endeavour. With a visionary leader such as Dr. Afilalo, it was easy to get things moving. I sent out a needs survey to our group, got back a large amount of data that I then collated and analyzed. In September of 2019 I presented the concepts of Physician Wellbeing and Burnout, along with the creation of the ED Physician Wellbeing Committee and the results of our survey, at a departmental meeting. Though there were quite a few cynics in the room that evening, with giggles and snickers heard more than once, those same individuals were amongst the first to realize shortly thereafter, that this was more than just a shot in the dark. The group rapidly came on board and the committee grew to three, then five members. There is hardly any more skepticism within the group, as our interventions have borne fruit and this is visible to all.
At the beginning, we created a Thank You card campaign which dramatically improved morale. Patients filled out the cards and handed them directly to members of the ED team, or placed them in boxes around the department; these cards were then hung up on a Wellbeing Board that sits outside the staff locker rooms. Other things we have done include social events such as bowling (pre-pandemic), outdoor get togethers, and pumpkin picking. We held a wonderful Virtual Holiday Party, recognized our residents with thank you gifts, celebrated Canadian Women Physicians Day and supported our nurses with snacks and pizza during Emergency Nursing Week.
The intervention that has made the most difference on a daily basis, was fixing up our ED call room and adding in a full size fridge. This is stocked every couple of weeks by Dr. Engo, who has made it possible for all of us to take a few minutes during a hard shift to eat something delicious or have a cold Diet Coke or Bubly.
We continue to move forward every day with new ideas, programs and events. I just finished the Director of Wellbeing course at Stanford Medicine, and this inspired me and taught me much more that is helping with our future endeavours. Shortly, we will be training a dozen MDs to be Peer Supporters for our group. Additionally, we are reviewing a new survey and will hold Ask-Listen-Empower focus groups in order to come up with more changes to benefit each other. We supported our younger MDs in advocating for scheduling improvements - which happened - and watched happily as another group of docs decided to spearhead a revamping of Signover (which has greatly helped improve our lives).
Creating a Culture of Wellness within our institution (based on the Stanford Model of Professional Fulfillment) has become my current priority. Thanks to Dr. Afilalo's unwavering support and mentorship, I spoke at the level of our Medical Executive Committee and started the ball rolling within our entire hospital (and beyond). I have now adapted and given this presentation for the Departments of Obstetrics-Gynecology, Neonatology, and Family Medicine. Soon I will speak to the Department of Surgery, and the Department of Anesthesia at another hospital. In the near future, this presentation will be given at two national conferences.
Physician Wellbeing is a passion and a necessity, requiring vision and strong champions. I am fortunate, we are fortunate, to have a dedicated team who are working tirelessly to further the goals of making our physicians whole, well, and joyful at work. Please see the members below.
I am an Emergency Physician, working as an attending at the JGH since 2014. I am also a mom of two amazing young kids and a frisky tiny goldendoodle. My husband is a golf pro and triathlete who keeps all of us busy all the time. My vision is that this Wellbeing Committee will be a ray of light, to show our physicians and the department as a whole that personal and professional wellness are equally important and must be valued. Without individual physician wellbeing, patient care will suffer. We must take care of ourselves and eachother, and our team is committed to advocating for our colleagues.
It’s a pleasure to be part of the JGH Emergency department’s Physician Well-being Committee.
I think of our motto as “by us, for us”.
In investing to create the most pleasant, safe and healthy workplace environment, we are improving the overall ER experience for physicians, and consequently for all our patients as well.
When I started as an attending at the JGH emergency two decades ago, wellbeing was an afterthought. In time, I grew to recognize that wellbeing is no longer an option but a necessary part of our professional lives. We aught to be looking after ourselves and our colleagues with as much care as we do for our patients. Mindfulness, mental resiliency, peer support and team morale are important to the future of our department. We will not do this on our own.
The Wellbeing committee is committed to be there front and center for all of us.
Outside the ER I’m a proud father of three kids and 1 new puppy. I met my wife at summer camp and we have been married for 13 years. I’ve always loved sports and always tried to balance athletics with academics. My favourite sport growing up was hockey and I always played goalie. I also played volleyball and practiced martial arts. My other passion has always been the great outdoors and I still love sharing this with my kids at the cottage.
I’m learning a lot about well-being over the past few years and I believe the key to well-being is balance. Choose what is most important to you and strive to balance these priorities.