Submitted by DANIEL LAKOFF, MD, FACEP (ICAHN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT MOUNT SINAI) and CHRISTINA SHENVI MD, PHD (UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA) on behalf of the CORD Resilience Committee
January 22nd -28th is ACEP Wellness Week 2017! This provides a time for all of us to reflect on our current efforts and try to find ways to create an environment of wellness for our trainees. The ACEP Wellness Committee has created a wealth of new content for the week, which is a great place to start.
First off we have to recognize that the gargantuan challenges of maintaining wellness and promoting resiliency are not magically solved by one week of fun activities. No amount of cupcake hours can make up for a system that places impossible burdens on its residents, or a workplace environment that is malignant. In fact, planning an ice cream social to try to promote wellness in the absence of other, deeper, more important changes and interventions can come across as trite and even insulting. So start off with an honest evaluation of your program, your department, and your hospital system. Engage your residents in a frank discussion of how well they are coping, and what their major sources of stress are. Then begin serious efforts to change what you can. Consider identifying resident and faculty champions who are willing to take on some of the major stressors. Create a resident and faculty wellness committee if you don’t have one already. Designate residents and attendings to sit on the hospital committees that make decisions about important issues, such as the house staff council, or the clinical operations group, etc.
While you are addressing the major sources of burnout and stress in your program, the next step is to work on collegiality and create a culture of wellness in the program. Part of this is giving the residents and faculty time to get to know each other and have fun together. Here are some ideas to help get all your residents involved that have worked for us.
Several years ago, as an early version of our Wellness Week, we had events planned daily for 1 week. Unfortunately, the events were sparsely attended by our residents, not because the activities weren’t fun or entertaining, but because the difficulty of collecting a quorum of residents off-shift together. So with a little brainstorming, we made the decision to make it a month long.
Enter Wellness Month! To coincide with the mid-year blues, we placed it right after the holidays and before the in-service exam. Our events are planned for every Tuesday night, and are social events planned at unique New York venues. Our Wednesday post-conference events are focused on self-care activities.
- Examples for our Tuesday Night Fun: Boots and Saddles: Hidden gem of the West Village
- Dinner and a Movie: No explanation needed
- “Whine and Cheese”: Cozy little gathering at someone’s home where residents can just spend time together and vent and socialize.
- Royal Palms: Brooklyn venue with shuffleboard and drinks
Examples for our Wednesday events:
- A trip to a co-ed Russian/Turkish bath
- Post-conference therapy puppies session (ask your hospital if they have a program)
- Ski trip to a local mountain
You could also consider doing a service activity together. Check out options at your local habitat for humanity, soup kitchen, rescue mission, or homeless shelter and find out if there are ways your residents could serve together.
Our final Wednesday conference of the month is an off-site retreat with a focus on resident wellness and resilience with guest speaker Cynthia Pong of Embrace Change NYC, a few short talks, and a number of group discussions.
In order to make this work, and not end up with awkward, poorly-attended social events, you have to have resident buy-in. A passionate and involved resident wellness committee is key. We also had sign-up sheets for events, encouraged faculty attendance, and had financial support from the department. Finally, we ask for feedback each year in order to improve for the next.
As ACEP Wellness week is approaching, we would love to hear about what you do and how you are promoting wellness, not just this week, but all year long! You can tweet it out to #EMWellnessWeek @ACEPNow.