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Resiliency program for residents unveiled

Plans for a national, coordinated resiliency training program to help Canadian residents deal with stress were detailed by the Resident Doctors of Canada (RDoc) at the recent Canadian Conference on Physician Health (CCPH) in Winnipeg.

While the project will not be tested in pilot settings until next year, it received high marks from the attendees who received a condensed overview of the program.

“This is concrete and practical and aimed at giving people tools rather than creating more angst,” said one audience member following the presentation by RDoc representatives Drs. Nureen Sumar, Christina Nowik and Laura Swaney.

The need for residents to receive more support in dealing with stress were laid out in a series of statistics describing the often shockingly high rates of burnout and suicide among those receiving postgraduate training in medicine.

While suicide was not a major theme at this year’s CCPH meeting, at least several delegates acknowledged on social media that the topic was their main reason for attending.

During the RDoc presentation, it was stated that suicide is a major issue for residents in Canada but that no good statistics exist to capture the exact magnitude of the problem.

“We have to perform at a high level under conditions of high stakes while under conditions of high stress or fatigue,” the RDoc presenters noted.

The RDoc resiliency program under development has been adapted from work done by the Department of National Defence and has been further adapted for the health care community by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

The presenters at the CCPH session stressed the program is intended not only to help residents deal with stress but also to foster an environment that will produce healthy physicians delivering high-quality patient care.

The skills-based program is designed to create an awareness of the stress involved in residency training and provide tools to deal with this stress in addition to training residents in the mandatory competencies outlined in CanMEDS 2015.

Audience members were provided with an overview of the underlying rationale behind the segments of the resiliency program and the tools that will be made available to residents.

A key component of the program still under development is a leadership curriculum to allow those working with residents to properly integrate the program and deal with issues that arise. In addition, facilitators will receive a five-day course to ensure the program is delivered properly.

The RDoc presenters noted it was important that these components be put in place before the program is rolled out in Canada in order to ensure it is implemented properly.

“The curriculum may resonate with residents – but we need to make sure supports are in place at the leadership level before doing pilots,” they noted.

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