Residents are often at hospitals for long periods of time and, like other healthcare providers, can encounter a number of factors that contribute to stress, fatigue and illness. To support our student learners, our Department of Medical Education, Research and Scholarship is focusing on providing residents with the resources they need to be able to recognize signs of stress and strategies to work through it.
“Fatigue is an inevitability of working in a complex healthcare system,” said Dr. Susan Edwards, a physician at St. Joe’s and Director of Resident Wellness at the University of Toronto, “so we try to help our residents with identifying when they are fatigued and help them develop strategies they can use for optimal performance during these times. Ultimately we want to build a culture where everyone who’s part of our healthcare teams understands that in order to provide high quality care we need to look at the overall wellbeing of our workforce and make sure everyone on that team is healthy and feels supported.”
Strategies for coping with stress can include being able to recognize that you’re not operating at your full capacity, said Dr. Edwards, so that a resident can work with their team and team supports to mitigate potential risks of working fatigued. Dr. Edwards also encourages residents to come up with physical activities that can be done throughout the day to boost energy, and to understand refueling strategies – for example, how to effectively use breaks, food and caffeine appropriately when they’re tired.
We’ve also recently welcomed Dr. Douglas Wooster, our Director of Physician Mentorship and Wellbeing, to focus specifically on helping doctors stay at their optimal health and supporting them as they pursue professional development opportunities. Dr. Wooster is the first hospital-based physician director of this type in Toronto, and is helping both residents and physicians moving through transition points to plan for the next phase of their career and tackle some of the complications and stress that can come up. He’s also helping create a wellness strategy for our residents and physicians, using evidence-based research and best practices to support them throughout their time at St. Joe’s.
“In order to take care of others, we first need to know how to take care of ourselves,” said Dr. Edwards. “It’s critical that we look at our workplace cultures and analyze how we can optimize the health of our teams. Supporting our people to be at their best directly contributes to quality patient care and helps us take better care of our community.”
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