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Physicians in training take part in the improv for med students workshop at the PGME Resident Retreat.

First-ever resident retreat a success: ‘You can’t pour from an empty glass’

December 6, 2019 — 

While medical residents normally work long hours caring for patients, the Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) Resident Retreat was a chance for physicians in training to focus on their own wellness and learn strategies to live a balanced, healthier life.

More than 400 residents came together on Nov. 12 at the Fort Gary Campus for the inaugural event. The day was filled with workshops, a group panel discussion, a wide variety of activities and a social event to end the day.

More than 400 physicians in training took part in the PGME Resident Retreat.

Dr. Janine Grenier, a resident in the family medicine program, said it is important that residents get together to talk about wellness.

“We all come from a place where we’re all high achieving and we’re always trying to live up to our standards to be able to strive to do better, and too often we’re focused on doing everything we can in our jobs, but we’re not doing enough to keep ourselves healthy,” she said. “I think it’s important to keep ourselves healthy because you can’t pour from an empty glass.”

Dr. Amanda Condon, associate dean, postgraduate student affairs and wellness, Max Rady College of Medicine, said the retreat was developed as a response to, and in the memory of, a resident who passed away in 2018 after suffering from anxiety and depression.

Condon said there was a gap in their residency programs and holding the Resident Retreat each year will help fill it. “This retreat really gives us an opportunity to explore a lot of topics that we may not otherwise get to explore,” Condon said. “We can really dive into topics like leadership, bias, mindfulness and system level thinking.”

Fifteen different workshops were offered in the morning. The sessions ranged from an introduction to mindfulness to improv for med students to parenting and residency.

Residents shared coping strategies while eating ice cream sundaes in the Challenges in Residency: Ice Cream Round workshop.

Dr. Mackenzie Gregg, a resident in the anesthesia program, said she is a very food motivated person so she signed up for the Smart Snacking session, and a workshop where residents shared challenges and coping strategies while making and eating ice cream sundaes.

“In Smart Snacking, I got some good recipes and dietician approved ideas for quick snacks that are actually healthy and not too overly processed,” she said. “And Ice Cream Rounds was really good.”

The afternoon featured 20 activities from which the residents could choose two, ranging from wall climbing to glow in the dark dodgeball to urban birding.

Dr. Stephanie Lim, a resident in the general surgery program, picked a reading session and Aqua Zumba for her activities. “I chose Book Nook because I’m a final year general surgery resident and I really need to study so that will make me feel better, and Aqua Zumba because I like Zumba and I like being in the pool,” she said.  

Lim said the Resident Retreat is an innovative event. “I’m not aware of any other residency program across the country doing something on this large of a scale,” she said. “I think this is a great step in the right direction in promoting resident wellness and I really applaud our PGME for organizing this.”

To help cover the residents’ shifts in the hospitals that day, Condon said that all faculty and attending physicians were working on the wards. She said the faculty and attending physicians were very supportive of the residents attending the event.

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