Canadian Medical Association

A career transition can be a challenging time for medical learners and physicians, but educators, mentors and coaches can help make the change a positive one.

The information and resources below can help you prioritize health and wellness when supporting someone through a career transition.

The impact of career transition

The shifts from medical school to residency and from residency to practice can take a toll on the mental health and wellness of medical learners, residents and physicians. Medical educators and faculties should offer support during these transitions.

According to a recent study from the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, transitions cause some of the greatest periods of stress in a physician’s career. These stresses are compounded when a physician must relocate for their career and begin a new life in an unfamiliar place. The study provides an overview of current wellness initiatives in Canadian academic emergency medicine programs, finding that many medical facilities provide support but programs vary widely.

Training and resources to help medical learners and physicians with the practical details of career transition have become more available in recent years. These include CaRMS preparationfinancial advice and support for medical-legal issues. However, mental health and wellness are often overlooked. 

Supporting physicians and medical learners

Here are some ways to support medical learners and physicians during career transitions:

Highlight self-care

Self-care involves taking care of one's physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health — areas medical learners and physicians often neglect. For example, according to the 2021 National Physician Health Survey, 79% of physicians have a formal primary care physician, and younger respondents (<35 years old) (67%) are significantly less likely to have a regular family physician compared with 85% of those 55 and older. Encourage medical learners and physicians to look after their health.

Recommend seeking help

Medical learners and physicians going through a stressful transition can find help through their provincial health program, their faculty or even their peers. However, mental health stigma continues to be a significant barrier preventing people from seeking support. We’ve developed a brief guide to help you recognize the signs of distress and support someone who might be having a tough time.

Focus on wellness

It’s especially important to focus on wellness during transitionary periods. A good example of a program that does this is the WELL program at the University of McGill’s Faculty of Medicine. It provides a week of activities for students transitioning to clerkship to help them prepare for common clerkship stressors.

Encourage work-life balance

Remind physicians transitioning into practice about the importance of striking a work-life balance. Encourage them to take an extended break between completing their training and starting their practice, as well as to keep their home and office life separate when they begin working.

Are you in distress? Get help now.

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