Canadian Medical Association

“Our health and wellness is at a breaking point. So many of us are stretched incredibly thin, trying to hold up a system in crisis,” said CMA President Dr. Kathleen Ross as she welcomed over 400 participants to the 2023 Canadian Conference on Physician Health (CCPH), held Nov. 3 and 4 in Montreal and online.

Presented jointly by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Quebec Physicians’ Health Program, the conference is an opportunity for medical learners and physicians to collaborate on pressing wellness issues and showcase research and innovative initiatives that are making a difference. While it is typically held every other year in a different Canadian city, this year marks the conference’s return following the pandemic.

Here are some highlights:

Physician wellness: Reality, reflection and renaissance

Dr Jane Lemaire

Dr. Jane Lemaire

Sharing her experience working in physician wellness, Dr. Lemaire highlighted the challenges and successes her team at Well Doc Alberta have experienced in the wake of pandemic. She reaffirmed the importance of institutional investments in and support for physician wellness, and provided examples of how we can move from research to action.

“I believe that we are in the midst of our renaissance in physician wellness, and that the work we're all doing will take us from darkness to light as we recover from these really challenging times.” — Dr. Jane Lemaire

Related resources

Our focus | A framework for physicians’ physical, psychological and cultural safety

We need to address unsafe work environments in health care and advance a more inclusive, supportive culture of medicine. 

Physicians First | Well Doc Alberta

In this podcast, host Dr. Caroline Gérin-Lajoie discusses how Well Doc Alberta is addressing physician wellness at the system-wide level with program directors Dr. Jane Lemaire and Alicia Polachek.

#TimeBack: Discussing international strategies to reduce physician admin burden

Dr. Kathleen ross

Dr. Kathleen Ross

Dr. Marie Brown

 Dr. Marie Brown

CMA President Dr. Kathleen Ross and Dr. Marie Brown, director of practice redesign for the American Medical Association (AMA), discussed cross-border perspectives on the impact of administrative burden and the steps we can take to start reducing it.

“We can’t just keep training more, recruiting more and dumping more people in the top of our bucket if there’s a steady drain from exhaustion, burnout and moral distress at the bottom.” — Dr. Kathleen Ross

The candid discussion covered the interoperability of electronic health records, the many forms physicians have to fill out, and efforts on both sides of the border to eliminate sick notes.

Both speakers emphasized that administrative burden doesn’t just add hours to doctors’ days; it also impacts their ability to develop the relationships with patients that are key to fostering trust and improving health outcomes.

“Preserving that very special time so that we can develop that relationship and give great quality care to our patients is what they want and need, and it's what gives us the greatest joy. So, let's keep the fight going.” — Dr. Marie Brown

Related resources

Our focus | Administrative burden

Unnecessary administrative tasks take time away from patient care and significantly impact physicians’ mental health.

CMA | Health Care Unburdened Grant program

$10 million in grants for initiatives that reduce the administrative burdens facing physicians, offered by the CMA, MD Financial Management and Scotiabank. Applications close Dec. 12, 2023.

AMA | Getting rid of stupid stuff: Reduce the unnecessary daily burdens for clinicians

This open access module offered by the AMA provides practical resources for clinicians trying to reduce unnecessary administrative burdens.

Self-compassion: Caring for others without losing yourself

Dr. Kristin Neff

Dr. Kristin Neff

Dr. Neff spoke about the importance of self-compassion for health care professionals, encouraging attendees to treat themselves with the same kindness and support they’d show a friend or colleague during hard times. She also highlighted the role it can play in strengthening resiliency and tackled misconceptions that often serve as barriers to self-compassion.  

“Self-compassion is not selfish. It’s the biggest gift you can give to every single person you come into contact with.” — Dr. Kristin Neff

Related resources

CMA | Physician Wellness Hub

The Physician Wellness Hub provides reliable wellness tools and resources to empower physicians, medical learners, leaders and educators to create change in the culture of medicine.

TEDx Talks | The space between self-esteem and self-compassion

At this TEDx Talk, Dr. Neff shares why she thinks “self-compassion is an idea worth spreading.”  

The great debate: Should I stay, or should I go?

Dr. Jillian Horton

Moderator: Dr. Jillian Horton

Dr. Andrew Ajisebutu

Dr. Andrew Ajisebutu

Dr. Marie-Ève Goyer

Dr. Marie-Ève Goyer

Dr. Julie Maggi

Dr. Julie Maggi

Dr. Saleem Razack

Dr. Saleem Razack

Be it resolved that despite the health care crisis and the challenging working conditions and environments, there are compelling reasons to keep practising medicine.

So kicked off the last session of the conference, with Dr. Horton moderating a sometimes humorous, sometimes sobering debate on the very real challenges physicians face in their day-to-day work.

“I feel really privileged to have [my patients’] trust… but that does not take away my anger from seeing the system crushing my patients and crushing the staff I’m working with.” — Dr. Marie-Ève Goyer

“There's an intimacy to medicine that simply cannot be replicated elsewhere… But now we're faced with a system that recognizes that intrinsic need in all of us and at times they exploit that, and ironically, I think that pulls us away from the things that we love in medicine.” — Dr. Andrew Ajisebutu

Despite the pitfalls that all speakers acknowledged were part of the medical profession, the session concluded on a hopeful note from all debaters.

“Medicine is a profoundly relational job and a profoundly relational endeavor. It relies on being part of a community and finding the joy, reward, health and well-being that comes from having a relationship of service and helping to others.” — Dr. Saleem Razack

“My hope is instead of trying to ‘MacGyver’ the system, we can really work together on reengineering it so that we can have a system that will continue to give us meaning in our day to day and be there in a healthy way for generations to come.” — Dr. Julie Maggi

As the dust settled on the tongue-in-cheek debate, Dr. Horton emphasized that “most of us are here because we're looking for reasons to stay, to continue to do what we do despite how difficult it can be.”

Related resources

CMA | Stay or go? Dr. Jillian Horton on professional fulfillment through a ‘chronic emergency’ in health care

Ahead of the conference, the CMA spoke to Dr. Horton on burnout, professional fulfillment and what physicians need to flourish.

Join us next October for the biennial International Conference on Physician Health in Halifax. The conference is jointly sponsored by the CMA, American Medical Association and British Medical Association and showcases national and international research and system-level initiatives to mitigate burnout and promote professional well-being.

CCPH has received financial support from MD Financial Management and Scotiabank.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), MD Financial Management (MD) and Scotiabank together are firmly committed to supporting the medical profession and advancing health in Canada. As proof of this commitment, Scotiabank, in collaboration with the CMA and MD, is investing $115 million over 10 years to support physicians and the communities they serve across Canada. Learn more about this support.

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