Physician wellness is one of VPSA’s strategic priorities. To that end, we are making up to $47,000 available annually for protected time to bring together division and department members to identify barriers to wellness and fulfillment in their group, along with funding for the time required to design and test interventions to address these factors. Each group can receive up to $7,500 per year from VPSA. We are pleased to report that VCH has also agreed to support wellness projects with additional funding.
Our first callout for proposals this past summer resulted in several applications that were reviewed by members of the VA/VC Physician Wellness Steering Committee. Our next call out with a deadline of January 31 has just opened; applications have been circulated to division and department leaders.
“We were impressed with the calibre of the applications and thank each and everyone who applied,” said Dr. Fahreen Dossa, who co-chairs the committee with Drs. Lucy Lyons and Zafrina Poonja. “There is clearly a need to do more to address physician wellness and burnout and we hope this funding will be a step forward for many of our members.”
The following departments/divisions were approved for wellness funding:
- Department of Emergency Medicine – The department has been addressing wellness for several months and formed a multidisciplinary wellness committee and administered its own survey to further identify drivers of burnout. Their experiences have been documented by the Specialist Services Committee in this article.With its new funding the ED will address two needs: monthly meetings with emergency physician leadership, emergency physician wellness champions, and nursing leadership; and quarterly wellness events for all emergency physicians that address specific stressors of working on the frontline.
- Department of Family and Community Practice – This project includes family physicians who work across a wide range of clinical settings in VA and VC. The intention of this funding is for those who provide care for the elderly, palliative patients, and people with substance use.The goal is to create a committee with representatives from across these clinical areas to guide wellness work. Members will also conduct a focus group to determine the area’s specific drivers of burnout.
- Division of Hospitalist Medicine – Staff here will establish a multidisciplinary committee to guide wellness work within the department. They aim to identify strategies on the individual and work unit levels that can enhance resilience and improve the work environment. The group will design and implement wellness interventions.
- Department of Anaesthesia and Perioperative Care – Partnering with the current VCH peer-support program being spearheaded by Dr. Ashok Krisnamorthy, the department will create a program to allow for critical incident stress debriefing and support with formal training through the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. The goal is to improve provider wellness by supporting them following critical events and to prevent maladaptive coping strategies that reduce performance and increase burnout.
- Division of General Internal Medicine – The division has already been working on several wellness initiatives and has developed a curated physician wellness resource package for its members. The division is also running a pilot commensality group.With new funding, the division will hold an open focus group to identify systems-level pain points or barriers to wellness at work. From there, a wellness task force will be created that will meet regularly to brainstorm solutions and advance efforts.
- Infectious Diseases Division – This group plans to hold quarterly lunches that will provide social engagement as well as opportunities to focus on topics related to outpatient clinic workflow and ways to improve efficiencies. The group will also host commensality dinners biannually.
- Department of Psychiatry – This department intends to use its funding to establish a committee that will guide the group’s wellness work. A representative sample of department members will take part in a focus group to determine what is driving their burnout. These findings will inform interventions. The committee will involve operational leaders if opportunities to improve processes are identified.
“We recognize that individual departments and divisions need individualized plans to address the factors that are causing their burnout,” added Dr. Dossa. “We look forward to hearing the results from each group and sharing their inspiring ideas with others. We also look forward to receiving more expressions of interest.”