Post-graduate medical residents play a critical role in the healthcare system as part of their training taking care of patients and supporting families in clinics and hospitals across B.C.
But, as Dr. Dianna Louie will tell you, residency comes with its own unique set of challenges.
In her role as director of resident wellness with UBC’s Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Louie makes it a priority to ensure the right kind of support services are in place for residents training in all corners of the province.
We sat down with Dr. Louie to learn more about how the Faculty is empowering residents to keep their personal health and wellness top of mind.
Residency is an exciting, but intense period in a doctor’s journey to practice. As Director of Resident Wellness, what are some of the unique stresses faced by residents today?
I personally found that residency had intense highs and lows. The prevalence of resident burnout and stress is well documented. We now recognize that for residents it may represent the most challenging time in their personal wellness. Major stressors identified include work-life balance, coping with time pressures, fear of failure, developing clinical skills and debt.
The most challenging aspect for me was that I didn’t have control over my own schedule. I felt like I was missing out on so much and even when I was physically there, I wasn’t present; I was just exhausted. To combat this, I made a concerted effort to take advantage of the time I did have off. I booked trips away when I had three-day weekends, lieu days and holiday weeks, so that I didn’t end up picking up shifts or going back into the hospital to finish up dictations. I declined to do research on my weekends.
What services and supports are available to UBC residents?
Created in 2013, the Resident Wellness Office was designed to provide confidential support services that meet the unique needs of residents and their partners. One of the first of its kind in the country, it has been held up as an example by many other Canadian medical schools which have built their own programs based on the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s model.
The office offers resources including:
- Free and confidential counselling for individuals and their partners (in-person and over the phone/Skype)
- Group support – Including Peer to Peer Networks, Residents on Leave Support Group, Wellness Champions
- Ice Cream Rounds, a confidential, resident-only forum to gather over ice-cream sundaes to discuss the highs and lows of residency. It allows residents to connect in a compassionate way within the local resident community.
- Referrals to community resources and other helping professionals
- Proactive events, such as Resident Talent Night, and workshops on relevant health and wellness topics
- Up-to-date online resources
- Community events
Looking back on your own journey through residency, what words of wisdom would you offer today’s residents?
Be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend. Everyone finds residency hard. You are not alone. And if you need help, please reach out to the Resident Wellness Office, or a colleague or loved one.
As a practicing pediatrician, how do you find balance in your own life?
I try to put some time aside every day to exercise. I also put aside one part of a weekend day to get outside for a walk, run, bike ride or even just coffee with a friend. I book cooking classes, personal training sessions and book clubs with friends so I am accountable to doing these things and don’t end up just staying at work!
Also I really try to say “no” when something doesn’t serve me. Which is hard in residency and equally hard as an attending physician. There are so many great projects, experiences, opportunities (the list goes on) to be a part of and I have fear of missing out. But I had a mentor say to me with every single offer you get, consider: 1) Is this something you really want to do? If not, then 2) Is this something that is going to make or break your career? If not, then why are you doing it? That really helped me feel more confident in saying yes or no to opportunities that come my way.
Visit the Resident Wellness Office website to learn more.
Dr. Dianna Louie is a pediatrician at BC Children’s Hospital and has a pediatric practice in Richmond. She completed her medical school training and pediatric residency at UBC. She is the recipient of the 2016 Resident Doctors of Canada Puddester Award for Resident Wellness for her contribution to resident health at BC Children’s Hospital. She also received the inaugural UBC Postgraduate Medical Education Faculty and Staff Wellness Award.