Getting together informally is one of the best ways to create collegiality. Creating a sense of community and connection is good for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. That’s why VPSA is funding more commensality groups, awarding 18 groups for this fiscal year up from five in last year’s pilot program. VPSA approved applications from the Emergency Department (2), Family Medicine (4), Hospitalists (1), Obstetrics and Gynaecology (1), Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (1), Psychiatry (4), and Neurology (1). An additional four groups include physicians from a mix of specialties. Three of the groups received funding during the pilot phase of the program; the rest are new to commensality groups. VPSA provides $25 towards the meals for each physician attending the meetings.
Commensality groups have been shown to reduce physician burnout, decrease depression, and improve job satisfaction. Originally studied and deployed at the Mayo Clinic, these groups are small gatherings of physicians who meet monthly for an hour to discuss issues central to their work environment.
Physicians from the Vancouver Community Palliative Care Program met for their first commensality group dinner in July. The program is spread across many sites, so members rarely have opportunities to see each other in person. They found the facilitated small group discussion at the start of the evening a great way to begin meaningful conversations.
“I really enjoyed our first dinner,” said Dr. Conor Barker, who is leading this commensality group. “It was a relaxing, stress-free environment where I was able to get to know my colleagues better. I felt empowered after sharing my thoughts within our group and getting to hear others’ experiences. I’m looking forward to continuing these meetings over the next few months.”
The Vancouver Community Older Adult Mental Health and Substance Use program is actively undergoing a service redesign. Dr. Muz Birlik shares the medical coordinator role for the service and applied for funding. The group will meet for its first time in August.
“During this time of change, we are excited to be able to encourage wellness through connection and conversation at regular monthly physician gatherings,” said Dr. Birlik.
Family practitioner Dr. Katayoun Rah applied for funding on behalf of a group called the Iranian Canadian Healthcare Professionals of BC.
“It was exactly what we needed, especially during the Woman, Life, Freedom movement that had a huge impact on us all—on top of what we already had in our lives,” she said. “We shared memories and experiences that would have not come out if we hadn’t planned for it. It felt a bit silly at first, but it happened to be thought provoking and heartfelt and brought us closer together as human beings. The organizers were supportive and encouraging and it was nice to see that our mental health and well-being mattered, and how a good and simple plan could make such a difference!”
“A wonderful initiative that builds collegiality, trust, psychological safety, and community,” said another physician who preferred to remain anonymous. “These groups offer a safe and collaborative space where we can be authentic and vulnerable, and where we may come together as colleagues to share with and celebrate each other and our respective challenges, dreams, hopes, frustrations, successes, etc. They are a precious opportunity….and a privilege to be part of!”
Photo: Members of the Vancouver Community Palliative Care Program.