Promoting wellness with the National Wellness Challenge

By Lori Minassian (MEDS 2021), Aescupalian Society Wellness Officer 2018-2019

As medical students, residents and physicians we are always told to put our patients first. In medical school, we sacrifice sleep and social activities to study to ensure that we will have the tools to properly serve future patients. Once we become residents, we work as hard as possible to be there for patients and this continues on throughout our careers as physicians.

Unfortunately, oftentimes, this means that we forget to take care of ourselves. For this reason, we see high rates of burnout in the medical community. In fact, the Canadian Medical Association National Physician Health Survey conducted in 2017 found that of the 3000 Canadian residents and physicians who responded, 30% reported burnout, 34% experienced symptoms of depression, and 8% had had suicidal ideations within the last 12 months. These issues are discussed at length in a recent position paper by the CFMS responding to medical student suicide.

These statistics highlight just how important it is to promote wellness as early as possible. If we can come up with tools to be well as medical students, we can hopefully use those tools as we progress in our careers as physicians. At Queen’s we are lucky enough to have a wellness curriculum, where we can discuss issues affecting the undergraduate classes and learn strategies to cope with wellness issues. We also have a wellness committee that strives to provide opportunities for student wellness through different events.

Wellness within the medical school becomes a priority during our annual Wellness Month, which runs in conjunction with the CFMS National Wellness Challenge. This year, wellness month runs from January 14 – February 10. You can participate as an individual or in teams of 3-5. Each week will focus on a different area of wellness. We kick off the month with Social Wellness week, followed by Physical Wellness, Mental Wellness and Nutritional Wellness. Each week, participants can follow national challenges set by the CFMS and track their points through the scoresheet provided upon registration. To register for the CFMS national wellness challenge, please follow the links below (Team sign up: bit.ly/NWC_team; Individual sign up: bit.ly/NWC_individual).

At the same time, we encourage students, residents and faculty to attend our Queen’s specific events. Some of the events we are running this year include a Multicultural Potluck Lunch, Zumba/Crossfit/Spin classes, a Movie Night, Lunch and Learn with a Dietitian and many more! The schedule of events can be found within this post. In addition, all of the information regarding Wellness Month can be found at our Facebook page: 2019 Wellness Challenge – Queens (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2019NWCQueens/). This year, we would love to see participation from as many students, residents and faculty as possible! All events are open to anyone who would like to attend, though some require you to sign up in advance. If you have any questions or concerns regarding wellness month, please e-mail me at wellness@qmed.ca. Let’s come together, promote our wellness and have fun as we do it!

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Poetry, journalism, and a Pepsi commercial… or, a meandering parable about balance

I started writing poetry again recently. I do this, then abandon it, then reclaim it at various intervals. I’m always better with it.

This may seem to have very little – if anything – to do with medical education. And, you’re right in one sense. Join me on a little self-indulgent meandering to get to my point.

As I write this, it’s Thanksgiving Day – a day when people traditionally reflect on their blessings and things they’re grateful for. And, I’m on the cusp of a milestone birthday, so perhaps that has made me more introspective than other weeks, when I write about course evaluations and how we value them (we do!), or team-based learning and how it contributes to long-term learning and understanding more than straight lectures (it does!), or ways service-learning contributes to both social accountability and professional development (yes!). So, I find myself thinking about poetry.

On the road to becoming any professional – and medicine is no exception – we ask people to shed a lot of things along the way.

We ask people to shed attitudes that aren’t aligned with their goals. To ditch beliefs that aren’t compatible with where they’re going. To replace erroneous information or practices with those that are proven to be more valid.

The profession of medicine itself demands other things – things I watch colleagues work through and cope with – long days, longer nights, emotional and physical demands they may never have imagined at the start of their careers.

Because, really, none of us truly ever know what we’re getting into.

All of this coalesces in a kaleidoscope of who we were and who we are and who we will be. The parts and colours shifting as the years turn.

My first career was in journalism. In the spring of Grade 12, I was accepted into the four-year Bachelor of Journalism program at the University of King’s College. They only accepted 35 students a year, out of nearly 1,000 applicants, so this was exciting! As parents are wont to do, my father, an English teacher, mentioned my acceptance to a colleague he saw at a conference. That colleague was the late Don Murray, then a professor of Journalism at the University of New Hampshire. Professor Murray later sent me a number of articles and a book on journalism (that I still have and use to this day), but he passed along advice through my father that was even more valuable.

“They’re going to teach her how to write a certain way,” he said. “And that’s important, and she needs to do that. But tell her not to give up her other stuff. She needs to keep doing that, too. It will make her a better writer.”

I haven’t always adhered to that advice, but over 32 years after first hearing it, I know its value. So I put pencil to paper to work out ideas, and thoughts, and metaphors. But, really, I’m claiming a part of myself I refuse to shed. It’s something I need to keep to be me. To be better.

Are there things you’ve accidentally shed along the way that you didn’t need to? Are there parts of you you’d like to reclaim, to give you that edge, that solace, that space to be you, preserved in the full person you want to be?

As I write this, I’m reminded of the 2004 diet Pepsi “old van” commercial… where a thirty-something dad is asked if there’s anything else youthful he’d like to experience and he says his old van. He then imagines his 1980s-era rocker painted van and what driving that in his current life (like dropping his kids off at school) would be like (not good!). Then he drinks his can of pop and is happy with that.

Some things can’t – and likely shouldn’t – be reclaimed. But if there’s something like poetry, or running, or music, or nosing around in antique shops, or reading trashy fiction (however you define that), or some other seemed-not-that-important-at-the-time thing that you miss about being you, consider ways to recapture that. And fit that “old” part amongst the newer parts.

Just maybe not that van.

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This post is about nothing

I discarded quite a few topics for this week’s post as I didn’t want to “waste” a key topic on the “downtime” for many of our faculty and students of the summer break between semesters (excluding all those students and faculty involved in Clerkship, of course).

Sure, I could write about learning objectives, and active learning strategies, or assessment tools and rubrics, but these informational items would likely be missed by quite a few people off on summer pursuits.

And, really, I want you to miss them as anyone’s holiday break (however long or short) should be used to pursue as little as possible. A few years ago, when I was teaching at Loyalist College, I had students ask me what I wanted them to work on over a holiday break. It turns out my colleagues had given several detailed assignments. Firmly believing in the need to relax and recharge, I told them I wanted them to sleep in and eat cookies for breakfast. (I got pretty good instructor evaluations that year; I hope it wasn’t just about the cookies).

So for this post, I thought to myself: “I should write about the benefits of doing nothing”. A short Google search later, I’ve discovered this is hardly a unique idea – and there’s evidence-based research to back up these benefits.

In fact, in a 2014 Forbes article, Manfred Kets De Vries pointed out that “slacking off and setting aside regular periods of ‘doing nothing’ may be the best thing we can do to induce states of mind that nurture our imagination and improve our mental health”.

An Australian blogger drew attention to a study by Bar-Ilan University that demonstrated that daydreaming correlates with performance. “They found a wandering mind does not hamper the ability to accomplish a task, but actually improves it by stimulated a region of the brain responsible for thought-controlling mechanisms.” (Read more about that study here.)

Other research points to relaxing (i.e. doing nothing) being good for your heart, fighting the common cold, maintaining a healthy weight, sleeping better, and contributing to improved mental health.

Pico Iyer, author of The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere wrote of the virtue of doing nothing in a 2014 CCN article. He noted: “It’s an old principle, as old as the Buddha or Marcus Aurelius: We need at times to step away from our lives in order to put them in perspective. Especially if we wish to be productive.”  (Watch his Ted Talk, where he emphasizes the benefits of stillness, here: https://www.ted.com/talks/pico_iyer_where_is_home)

So, the next time I post, I’ll have more tips and tools for your educational toolbox. In the meantime, focus on wellness and, well, doing nothing. You can start with this slide show of Ten Ways to Enjoy Doing Nothing.

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QMed students cooking up wellness strategies

 by Meghan Bhatia, AS Wellness Officer

and Monica Mullin, Nutritional Wellness Lead

What is wellness? This is a question that proves far more complex than it would appear to be. Although on the surface it may seem easy to define, wellness is an interesting topic to discuss because it can be very personal and take different roles in students’ lives. Buzzwords often surround the wellness curriculum, things like work-life balance, healthy eating, ‘Get Your 150’ and mental or emotional well-being. These categories do indeed contribute to wellness, but with 400 different students and multiple faculty, one size does not fit all.

The idea of taking ownership of one’s own wellness was what piloted Wellness Month at Queen’s University. We may all know the areas of personal wellness, but this month added structure and challenge to these categories, in a hope that people would get new ideas, form habits and lifelong learning would result naturally.

The #keepsmewell challenge was piloted at Queen’s Medicine last year and this year was taken nationally through the CFMS, and run across the country concurrently. At Queen’s we had 160 QMed students participate (including clerks) as well as 18 faculty/staff and 16 QuARMS students.Salad

What was the #keepsmewell challenge? It was a positive habits challenge that had four themed weeks: nutrition week, mental health week, physical week and social academic balance week. Students would receive points for completing tasks on the spreadsheet and were often asked to promote these activities on social media with #keepsmewell.

It was always interesting seeing students stay active and well through their photos with all of the creative paths they took. In particular, the amazing cooking photos from last year were the inspiration behind the QMed cookbook. We decided to compile what students did throughout the challenge so they would have a reference for the rest of the year, of ideas and inspirations; QMED COOKS is available in ibooks or pdf and is free for anyone. It is available here and has been shared nationally and provincially. One of our contributions to the book was adding in nutrition facts and tips that we learnt in school, through resources, or the dietician talk during nutrition week to keep it fun and educational!

Our wellness curriculum is wide and quite diverse, but it is really only a part of QMed students’ wellness. The interest in this month and the positive feedback we have received from this book really does show that students are invested in their own wellness. We both hope that this is just a launching pad for even more nutritional integration into the curriculum, and that many wellness months will continue on, as wellness is difficult to teach, but so essential to learn.

 

 

 

 

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