Putting physicians first: Transforming physician wellness through peer-support initiatives
Recognizing a significant gap within the physician community, the Medical Society of Prince Edward Island (MSPEI) identified the need to create opportunities for colleagues to authentically connect, find fulfillment and overcome burnout challenges.
As one of the recipients of funding* from a strategic partnership between the Canadian Medical Association, MD Financial Management and Scotiabank, MSPEI has created a Physician Wellness Strategy consisting of programs that cultivate supportive environments in which doctors can engage in meaningful conversations about career-related stressors, develop coping strategies collaboratively and, ultimately, find renewal despite their daily challenges. "We wanted to provide our members with relevant support and resources, so as physicians, they can continue to focus their efforts on patients," explains Sheila Kerry, associate director of communications at MSPEI. These programs serve as a vital means of ensuring that physicians receive necessary support, enabling them to navigate the challenges they face, while maintaining their focus on providing excellent health care services.
Among these programs, the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Program stands out as a shining example of how small transformations can lead to significant system-wide change. Facilitated by Dr. Nicole Green, the program acknowledges the immense challenges faced by physicians on their journey to care for patients. "As physicians, we work long hours, and our commitment to patients runs deep. There’s no protected time for sleep, or for spending a day at home with your family when you’ve been gone for more than 24 hours," shares Dr. Green. “When we don’t support physicians in those situations, it becomes really challenging.” The P2P Program aims to help fill this void by providing an informal network of peers who understand the unique trials physicians face and who are ready to offer assistance and support.
Kerry also emphasizes the effect of having physicians such as Dr. Green facilitate these peer-oriented programs: "Our P2P Program lead, a fellow physician, collaborates with trained peer supporters who are physicians. They provide informal peer support to their colleagues, offering a helping hand, a comforting chat over a cup of coffee and a platform to discuss both the emotional toll and clinical challenges. Physicians find solace in knowing they are not alone.” This sense of camaraderie and support empowers physicians to navigate the intricacies of their profession and make a positive impact on patient outcomes.
The MSPEI team recognizes the monumental potential of small-scale transformations within the health care system. By implementing programs like the P2P Program, they initiate a ripple effect that can bring about substantial improvements. Dr. Green emphasizes this point, stating, "It's a complicated and complex national and international issue. Culture and system change is slow, but we need it to happen.”
"Even when physicians may not feel that they need support in the moment, we have seen that a short intervention in which someone reaches out and shows that they care can actually be a transformative experience that affects them longer term," Dr. Green adds. By nurturing a culture of support and empathy, these initiatives not only enhance the well-being of physicians, but also elevate the overall quality of patient care.
“Thanks to Affinity funding, our team was able to bring greater breadth and depth to the MSPEI Physician Wellness Strategy — and operationalize several physician wellness programs that initially started out as ideas that needed to be tested,” Kerry states. Through the power of connection alongside these incremental transformations, the Canadian health care system can foster an environment that supports physicians in delivering their best care.
*Together the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), MD Financial Management Inc. (MD) and Scotiabank are firmly committed to supporting the medical profession and advancing health in Canada. As proof of this commitment, we have formed an Affinity partnership through which we are investing $115 million to support physicians and the communities they serve across Canada.
In addition to the P2P Program, thanks to the support of Affinity funding MSPEI has launched other impactful programs, including the Practice Support Program and the Leadership Development Program, and were able to strengthen physician involvement in the Physicians Recruiting Physicians Program. These initiatives prioritize physician wellness and drive positive change in the medical profession.
MD Financial Management provides financial products and services, the MD Family of Funds and investment counselling services through the MD Group of Companies and Scotia Wealth Insurance Services Inc. For a detailed list of these companies, visit md.ca and visit scotiawealthmanagement.com for more information on Scotia Wealth Insurance Services Inc. The trademarks of the Canadian Medical Association are registered and used under licence. The Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank®) provides banking and credit products and services. Visit scotiabank.com. ® Registered trademarks of The Bank of Nova Scotia, used under licence.