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An inventive, student-led approach to learner wellness

An inventive, student-led approach to learner wellness

It’s no secret that pursuing a health sciences degree is hard work. We set high expectations for each of our students, because when those degrees are handed out on convocation day, we have a duty to ensure that each and every one will provide evidence-based, person-centred, and compassionate care to their patients.

Long work hours, constant interaction with patients and colleagues, and frequent testing are just a few of the demands that are par for the course in healthcare programs. Yet, most of the pressures that students experience while at school are also the same ones that they will encounter as professionals. For that reason and many others, it is our responsibility as a faculty to help them learn how to deal with those pressures in appropriate and healthy ways. Recognizing when a student is not well and how to approach that is a critically important skill for each of our faculty members and student advisors – but it’s fair to say that in most cases, we are helping our students to deal with pressures in a reactive way.

In realizing this, the Wellness and Mental Health Committee held jointly under the medical school’s Learner Wellness Centre and the Aesculapian Society (AS), developed an innovative program that would focus on the proactive and preventative side to student wellness. And so, as a brilliant compliment to the services already in place, an innovative program called Wellness Month was designed and launched this past February.

“Wellness Month was entirely targeted at developing resiliency by practicing positive habits that would hopefully prevent, to some degree, the burnout and the physical and mental health burdens that arise as a consequence of our careers,” explains medical student and student committee chair Alyssa Lip.

For Wellness Month, students formed teams, and participants completed challenges focused on a different pillar of wellness each week – nutritional, mental, physical, and social academic balance. The program was wildly successful, and the students shared their ideas with each other via Twitter using the hashtag #keepsmewell. As a follow-up to the program, the organizing team decided to produce a handbook that might help to bring the initiative to medical schools across Canada, which can be viewed here (an iBook version will also be released shortly).

“The degree of support that I felt from my classmates during Wellness Month month was tremendous – it really was the definition of the QMED community. In leading the event, I started to realize that people were participating in our initiative, not just because they had to, but because they wanted to – not just doing the bare minimum, but actually zealously participating.”

In addition to 123 pre-clerks who took part in the project, Wellness Month caught the attention of a number of staff and faculty also took part in the challenges. “It meant a lot to the students see them get involved with something like this. I think it builds a very positive connection between students and faculty and improves the learning environment,” says Alyssa. In total 148 people participated in Wellness Month at Queen’s.

The committee hopes that the Wellness Month manual will help other organizations replicate the success of their program. “It has already been adapted in two other schools since our pilot ended in February. There has also been interest in bringing this to other faculties here at Queen’s as well as residences,” says Alyssa. “There is a real need for it as the rates of burnout rise. This initiative asks participants to act on ideas, learn skills, and make a change. It isn’t meant to be a complete solution, but it’s a small step towards actually doing something about it.” Our students have also gone so far as creating a new Wellness Officer voting member position on the AS, and have adopted the Wellness and Mental Health Committee as a full committee under the society.

Suffice to say that we are excited about the prospect of this initiative extending beyond Queen’s and are extremely proud of our students for setting up something that will not only help our students this year, but for years to come.

I welcome your comments on the new Wellness Month program below, or better yet, drop by my office – my door is always open.

Richard

I would like to thank Emma Woodman for her assistance in the creation of this blog post.

Kim Schryburt-Brown

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 09:48

 

I am very excited to see that Queen’s is helping students learn how to balance their personal and professional lives. As a preceptor to many Queen’s student OTs, I feel I also have a duty to model and teach how to lead a balanced life. My students are all encouraged to incorporate this into their learning goals as a way of emphasizing the importance of this often neglected area.
I look forward to reading how this initiative will be spread within the faculty of health sciences!

Kim Schryburt-Brown

reznickr

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 09:48

In reply to by student

Thanks very much for your comment, Kim. It is great to hear that you are a role model for our OT students in this area. We will try to keep tabs on the program as it continues to roll out and report back!

Richard

reznickr

Phyllis Durnford, Nursing Science '69

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 09:48

Another part of this project could involve, with the consent of the student, his/her parents, or the parents as a group. I think they also need to know about the project, and what role they can play in their increasingly adult child’s adaptation to the life of a health care professional. These students still go home once in awhile, and parents are usually quick to spot the indicators that there’s something not quite right in their student/family member’s life. Given that more and more students enter the health professions as mature students, with families, the same point applies. It takes a team to produce a well-rounded health care professional, who will then have learned to think of her/his patient/client/fellow professionals in an holisitic manner.

Phyllis Durnford, Nursing Science '69

Thanks for your comment, Phyllis. I think you’ve raised a great point – many family members would probably really enjoy being included in Wellness Month. I will make sure to pass your idea onto Alyssa and the Wellness Committee!

Richard

reznickr

Hi Phyllis,

We’re always lookng for ways to improve! This sounds like a great idea — and you raise some really great points. It definitely takes a team to produce a well-rounded health care profressional! We will certainly make a point of exploring how best to further incorporate family into the challenge in the future. Thank you for your suggestion!

Alyssa Lip

Alyssa Lip

Don Braden, M.D FRCPC

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 09:50

How delightful to learn of such an approach to the development of our health care students.A very important need for all in their future practices to balance the aspects of professional, personal and family lives. Early recognition and intervention can ward off “burn out”. It is also important for professionals in health care to realize that they do not have to totally be a
solo act and that friends and family can be of great support..

Don Braden, M.D FRCPC

I completely agree with you – early recognition and intervention is key. It looks as though the Wellness Committee might explore incorporating family and friends in the next edition! Thanks very much for commenting.

Richard

reznickr

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