Canadian Medical Association

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How Communities of Practice Support Communities of Wellness

Trina Larsen, Director, Planning and Physician Health, Doctors Manitoba

Healthy systems can support a variety of people. In an unhealthy system, however, even the healthy struggle to thrive. At Doctors Manitoba, our goal is to give every physician the support they need to deliver exceptional care. That support begins with working towards a health care system that is as healthy as possible to allow physicians to flourish and, in turn, provide the best care they can.

Our three-year Communities of Practice pilot program explores the interconnectedness of system and physician wellness, supports dynamic relationship building and encourages collaborative learning.

doctor with laptop during a virtual meeting with other doctors

Our three pilot hubs bring together physicians, administrators, and other key stakeholders into groups of eight to 13 members, who focus on learning about the challenges physicians are facing in their regions. The groups then leverage this new knowledge to develop grassroots-driven and evidence-informed action plans that can drive systemic change, rather than interventions solely intended for individual physicians. 

By organizing our Communities of Practice in this way, we recognize that a major driver of physician burnout and distress are institutional factors and seek to address these broader system issues.

In addition to the plans created within these groups, physicians have told us that they have found these hubs to be a refuge where they can count on having informal peer support from their colleagues. Hub members report feeling connected, understood, and valued.

This connection is critical, as our project focused on rural and northern Manitoba, where isolation is a common issue. They may be the lone physician in a particular community, or they may be separated by a geographic boundary from other physicians. We know that there is important knowledge everywhere, and we wanted to facilitate collaboration through connection, to help build awareness about how the regional health authorities can support physician health both locally and potentially across the country.

The three pilot hubs have currently just finished developing their action plans. Some of the proposed actions can be implemented right away, others might take a year or two. Doctors Manitoba is committed to supporting the regions and monitoring their progress to ensure the action plans deliver results.

Among many other insights, this process has reminded us that physicians are also valued decision makers. They have thoughtful, creative, and well-informed views. Physicians are used to being experts in their fields. And so, to come together to learn about something new and gaining expertise in that new field or topic, has a significant impact. As champions of change, they can initiate a powerful ripple effect about how we think about physician wellness, the impact on our communities and the health care system overall.

Physician health has never been more important. Across the country, health care systems are going through many changes and facing unprecedented challenges. Being able to develop and sustain a strong workforce where doctors are also included in key conversations and invited to the table to influence health policy is critical.

Systemic change requires time, creativity, and commitment to doing the work, but it doesn't always have to cost a lot of money to move the needle. At Doctors Manitoba, we are committed to continuing this work, and we are grateful for the support of the Canadian Medical Association, MD Financial Management and Scotiabank.

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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