Divisions are advocating for mental wellness through MDs4Wellness groups

Many divisions across BC are actively working to counteract burnout and develop stronger social connection between members.

In an effort to normalize discussions around mental, physical, and emotional well-being, physician-led social groups like MDs4Wellness are gaining momentum. Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice doctors Drs Joelle Bradley and Samir Malholtra were inspired by the Physician Advocating Wellness (PAWS) groups of the Fraser Health Authority and founded MDs4Wellness. This group of GPs organizes events, seminars, and workshops to increase social connection between colleagues and combat burnout.

Spending their days seeing patient after patient with unique and potentially complicated health needs can negatively affect family physicians’ state of mental well-being. Couple that with a potentially isolating work environment, expectations of emotional detachment, and a heavy workload, family doctors are at risk for burnout and/or compassion fatigue.

The Fraser Northwest Division has experienced many benefits of a robust network of support, which is now over 350 members strong. Division recruitment and retention efforts in particular are bolstered by MDs4Wellness, since it provides a sense of camaraderie and a more attractive work environment.

“Our division has always recognized the importance of a sense of belonging for retaining physicians in practice and in the community,” says Kristen Ash, Executive Director of the Fraser Northwest Division. “MDs4Wellness is one more way for physicians to create a sense of community or to find resources and information on physician wellness.”

Weekly MDs4Wellness newsletters not only remind members of ways to actively participate, but also provides constant messaging that mental and emotional difficulties are real and there is support available to help counteract these feelings.

Member feedback supports this idea. As one member writes, “knowing colleagues can support each other is important.” Acknowledging that issues around mental health exist encourages physicians to take a preventative approach to mental wellness.

As another member says, “even if I cannot attend an event, it's important for me to know that physicians are interested in and doing something about improving their resilience and wellness. Having this group exist sends a strong message that this is an important part of physician culture.”

In September, FNW’s MDs4Wellness received an award for Best Collaboration in Fraser Health’s Above and Beyond Awards for dedication to upholding and normalizing physician wellness.

The message is spreading: North Shore Division of Family Practice has initiated its own MDs4Wellness group after meeting with the Fraser Northwest group to learn from its experience. The first event hosted physicians in various stages of their career and the group views the intergenerational make-up of members as a powerful asset.

“We have some members responding to events who have just finished or are still in their residency, along with physicians who have been on the North Shore for over 20 years,” says Dr Lisa Gaede, the physician champion for North Shore MDs4Wellness. “This makes for a great environment and strong connection to our community.”

The North Shore Division is reaching out to members via its monthly news bulletin and are including photos from past events and wellness tips to further encourage participation. The next event features Dr Dike Drummond speaking about physician burnout.

For more information, visit the MDs4Wellness website.