Undergraduate medical education students across Canada and internationally are reported to face declining well-being and high rates of burnout and anxiety, according to recent studies. To address these concerns, the McGill University Faculty of Medicine’s WELL Office has created a novel four-year Longitudinal Wellness Curriculum that is now integrated with the academic curriculum.
An overview of the Wellness Curriculum was recently published in The International Journal of Whole Person Care.
“Medical schools have the responsibility to protect and foster students’ well-being and resilience through diverse means,” said Camila Velez, a Wellness Curriculum Consultant for Undergraduate Medical Education at the WELL Office and co-author of the article. “A life-long commitment to these practices will likely benefit patients and the health care systems in which physicians operate.”
Reducing barriers to well-being
Factors that contribute to student distress and burnout were identified through a scan of the literature, allowing the WELL Office team to develop methods to reduce barriers to well-being.
The curriculum is designed to “promote well-being, self-care, self-awareness, and resilience in medical students by educating and engaging them in diverse dimensions of wellness,” according to the journal article.
Velez co-authored the journal article with WELL Office co-director and Assistant Dean, Student Affairs Dr. Namta Gupta and Wellness Consultant Pascale Gendreau.
The curriculum aims to foster institutional cultural change and to reduce barriers like stigma, with the ultimate goal of encouraging engagement with student wellness.
Social, emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, and occupational aspects of wellness are addressed in the curriculum, along with the financial dimensions of wellness.
Interactive lectures, small-group discussions, motivational talks, student-led activities, simulated educational sessions, and online modules are utilized.
The curriculum is designed to align with a student’s academic career. For example, a week of activities takes place as students transition to clerkship in order to prepare for common stressors that emerge during clerkship.
Velez and her colleagues will be evaluating the curriculum to assess its effectiveness with plans to host qualitative focus groups comprised of medical students spanning the lifecycle of the wellness curriculum.
“We hope that medical educators, practicing health care professionals, patients, and students will read this article,” said Velez. “We invite medical schools to foster cultural changes by adopting a holistic approach to wellness, inviting students to participate in the development of wellness programming, creating spaces for community building among medical students, supporting diversity and inclusivity, and removing structural barriers to the well-being of trainees.”
The WELL Office was established in 2013 as a joint effort of the Offices of Student Affairs and Resident Affairs in McGill’s Faculty of Medicine.
The office is interprofessional by design and its mission is “to provide Health Professional Learners with counselling services, educational programming, support groups and workshops to develop skills and strategies to effectively navigate a critical and demanding point in their lives.”
The WELL Office has a range of supports for undergraduate medical/dentistry students, residents, and learners in the Schools of Physical & Occupational Therapy, the Ingram School of Nursing, and the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
March 1, 2019