Canadian Medical Association

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Addressing the Importance of Connectedness for Canada’s Family Physicians

Dr. Michael Allan, Director, Program and Practice Support, College of Family Physicians of Canada

The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) represents more than 42,000 members across the country. As large as and as geographically diverse as our membership is, we have recently been doing important work in the area of connectedness.

For most people and healthcare professionals, the last few years have been especially challenging. This is also true in unique ways for family physicians.

Even before the pandemic, many family doctors spent a great deal of time working in isolation.

Doctors with face masks on​​​​​

Research suggests that isolation can amplify the stresses physicians are managing day to day. At CFPC, we saw an opportunity to help create connections and build an environment in which physicians might feel comfortable sharing about the things that are putting their wellness in jeopardy.

A few of our more recent initiatives showcase the powerful and positive impact connectedness can have on the wellbeing of physicians and their practices.

For example, small-group learning environments have proven themselves to be a terrific format to allow physicians to share and learn from each other. Working with the Foundation of Medical Practice Education, we’ve been able to develop problem-based small-group learning modules specifically focused on physician wellness. The success of this program has been being able to very quickly access roughly 6,000 family physicians through the Foundation and the delivery of dynamic small group modules that can be accessed from wherever you are in the country. In these sessions, physicians share with each other some of the challenges associated with family medicine, all while benefitting from a very high level of engagement from their peers and the expertise of a trained facilitator.

At the same time, CFPC has assembled a Scientific Planning Committee comprised of family medicine experts around the country who have a speciality in physician wellness. Through a modified Delphi iterative process, they have identified key priorities related to physician wellness. 

One of the most critical observations the Committee has offered is that we need solutions for physicians who are struggling that don’t rely solely on the individual physician to make it right. The Committee agreed that the pressure to “fix yourself” that many physicians experience only makes their challenges worse. It’s another reason why connectedness is so critical to wellbeing. As a result of this discussion, the Committee and CFPC are working on an approach to government to address some of the stress points and challenges for the practice of family medicine at the system level. These conversations are being supported by position papers developed by the Scientific Committee, outlining recommended solutions. 

The Committee’s also been immensely creative. For instance, we know that there are many educational opportunities available for physicians. The Committee, however, believes that there needs to be a rethink of what these events look like.  They tabled the idea of developing a retreat for doctors who want to really get away for two or three days and just get absorbed in an event like the classic kind of educational retreat, but also allowing for personal time – even the ability to bring, and enjoy, their families. The pairing of professional and personal time means the person can learn, relax and enjoy, meet with colleagues, spend time with family, and do activities that connect/reconnect them to other doctors, their families and themselves. More on this to come!

In sum, there has been a tremendous amount of thinking done about ways to support family doctors and their unique needs. Thanks to support from the Canadian Medical Association, MD Financial Management Inc. and Scotiabank, we’re not only able to move ahead in the development of these programs, but have also been able to offer physicians compensation for their time. The ability to offer honoraria honours the expertise and time of the participating physicians and really has been the impetus to a shift at CFPC: we recognize the importance of this work and can now resource these initiatives appropriately. These funds allow us to make these initiatives – and the work of building connections and physician wellness -- a priority.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), MD Financial Management Inc. (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.

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