VPSA Dinner Groups – Getting to know the human side of your colleagues

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Burnout is a serious concern among physicians and addressing it will require systemic change. In the meantime, there are other steps you can take to build resilience.

“One theme that emerged from the VA/VC wellness survey that VCH conducted last fall was the desire for greater peer support,” said Dr. Fahreen Dossa, co-chair of the VA/VC Physician Wellness Steering Committee and a member of VPSA’s Community Building and Wellness Task Group. “We have since started to offer Dinner Groups where physicians from across specialties can come together to discuss common issues.”

To date, VPSA has held two Dinner Groups, both of which have focussed on work/life integration. VA/VC Physician Wellness Steering Committee and Community Building and Wellness Task Group member Dr. Anna Borowska facilitated the first session and was joined by Dr. Dossa for the second. Both are trained facilitators who understand the importance of creating a safe space with boundaries and guiding equal participation.

“The idea for the groups came from wellness experts including Stephen Swensen and Tait Shanafelt,” explained Dr. Borowska. “Zoom has made it easier for people to participate. You can sign in from home and you don’t have to give up your entire evening. We provide DoorDash coupons, which is a token incentive, but also demonstrates that we value your time.”

The sessions are a chance for physicians to get to know each other as colleagues and to discuss some weighty material. Participants understand that the sessions are a safe space for honest dialogue.

“There is real value to this kind of sharing,” noted Dr Dossa. “Beyond this intrinsic value, the sessions also help us feel less alone. They reduce isolation and serve to build inter-departmental collegiality.”

“It’s heartwarming to be in that sea of faces and to realize all that we have in common,” said Dr. Borowska. She added, “the groups are a work in progress. For now, we’re encouraging newcomers to the sessions because we want to keep the groups small and give more people a taste of what they’re about.”

The Dinner Groups have received excellent feedback. Survey reports have been universally positive and enthusiastic. Wrote one survey respondent:

“Thanks so much, this was great! Coming home I was really tired but now feel energized and feel more connected to my colleagues, quite a few of whom I would not have had a chance to chat to otherwise. It made the hospital just that much more a real community and that much less an anonymous institution. I hope we can make this a recurring series.”

Keep your eye out for notice of the next Dinner Groups in your weekly MSA/VPSA Checkup. The size of each group is limited to 10 people per facilitator so those interested are encouraged to register early.

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