A trio of VA hospitalists are working to make their department a more welcoming place to work. Drs. Claire Sakiyama, Christina Weisstock, and David Swab are wellness champions who are using funding from VPSA for initiatives to make themselves and their colleagues more resilient to burnout.
“We’re all newer to the team,” said Dr. Sakiyama. “We feel invested in our team’s long-term culture.”
The group surveyed the department’s more than 25 associates to find out what others felt would be the most useful issues to focus on. The results included better and more reliable locum coverage, more socialization with allied health staff and consultants, a desire for more group cohesion, and improvements to the workspace.
Like other physicians, hospitalists have been hit hard by the pandemic and, although they have a group of about 60 locums, getting time off has not been easy.
“There is a robust number of locums, but finding coverage for shifts is not always possible,” said Dr. Weisstock. “We’re working with our department head and Health Match BC to recruit more locums. Coverage is important for our overall wellness and this initiative has resulted in 10 to 15 potential new recruits.”
Hospitalists at VGH are scattered over three floors in Blackmore Pavilion as well as in other areas in the Pattison Pavilion. There’s also a small group at UBC Hospital. They work with a wide variety of allied health staff. Due to the distributed nature of the program, there are not many opportunities for group cohesion. To that end, the wellness champions have organized several social events with plans to offer these quarterly.
Difficult conversations and negative interactions can also affect wellness and contribute to burnout. Hospitalists interact often with Emergency Department physicians and Drs. Sakiyama, Weisstock, and Swab are hoping to create opportunities for these groups to get together.
The hospitalist wellness champions have also worked to make their office at VGH a more welcoming place—to improve its utility and feng shui. Clutter has been reduced and old furniture replaced with donated items. Staff have also donated artwork. A bulletin board now includes announcements of significant events both in and out of the hospital. The space feels more like a hub where colleagues can enjoy lunch and gather at the end of the day to debrief.
“We’ve used food to draw more people into the office,” added Dr. Sakiyama. “We have a monthly budget and the snacks have been a hit.”
The various wellness initiatives have been underway now for about six months and the champions believe the changes are making a difference.
“It’s fulfilling to be part of this and to feel like we’re creating a community,” said Dr. Weisstock. “I enjoy working at VGH and in the Hospitalist Department. I want to contribute to shaping a positive work environment and affecting change.”
“We really appreciate the VPSA funding; it gives us flexibility to plan more events and it’s helpful and motivating to be compensated for our time,” said Dr. Sakiyama. “The things we’re doing are benefiting me as well. They’ve brought me closer to my colleagues and that collegiality helps my own sense of well-being.”
Editor’s note: VPSA is currently offering funding for physician commensality groups. The deadline to apply is July 25, 2022.