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Taking care of each other: physicians with lived experiences offer support to colleagues

22/12/2022

Working as a physician is greatly fulfilling, but working tirelessly for others can affect one's own health including burnout, job satisfaction and work-life balance.

“Physician's well-being matters," says Dr. Asim Iqbal, Anesthesiologist with Vancouver Acute and peer supporter with the VCH Physician Peer Support Program​ (PPSP). “It's important that we take care of our doctors especially in their challenging times and vulnerable moments. Many may not want to admit to feeling stressed or overwhelmed."

Asim adds that recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress in others comes intuitively as a physician, but he admits he missed the warnings signs of burnout for himself until he suffered a temporary cortisol-related visual loss in his left eye. A combination of work and home life difficulties led to Asim having burnout without any other warning signs except this. 

On her own wellness journey and a PPSP peer champion, Dr. Jennifer Baxter, family physician and Associate Local Medical Director in Sechelt, says that she has received emotional support from compassionate and trusted colleagues and friends on countless occasions.

“I was reminded that I'm not alone in the challenges I face both at work and outside of it," shares Jennifer. “This mentorship and support empowered me to take the time I needed to recover and to take the actions I needed to stay well."

pictured: Dr. Asim Iqbal (top) and Dr. Jennfier Baxte​r​ (bottom)

​Physician Peer Support Progra​m

​Launched in 2022 as a health and wellness initiative across the region, the PPSP offers safe, one-to-one, confidential support to physicians experiencing a difficult time. Conversations are judgement-free, short-term and at no cost.

Physicians who seek support through PPSP will connect with a peer supporter who will walk beside them, and feel heard, connected and empowered.

“Whatever the issue, connecting with a colleague who shares lived experiences is a healthy place to start," shares Dr. Ashok Krishnamoorthy, Psychiatrist and Regional Medical Director of Wellness at VCH. “There are a lot of us going through similar situations and sometimes talking through a specific, one-off issue can be relieving. Try to not hold on to that negative feeling."

The relationship between a physician and peer supporter is collegial and non-professional. It does not involve therapy, clinical treatment or diagnosis.

“When we foster a culture of trust and care for each other, we find joy in work and our lives."


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