Physician support – more than mentorship

Oct 06 00064 A UBC resident assists with the suturing of a patient’s hand in Port McNeill, BC

What can RCCbc do to improve and increase supports for rural physicians?

This simple question will kick off the Mentorship and Health Policy Development stream at the Rural Emergency Continuum of Care (RECC) conference in Penticton on May 30 + 31, 2014.

In advance of the RECC conference, Dr. Kirstie Overhill, the Rural Coordination Centre of BC’s (RCCbc) lead for mentorship, would like to start a discussion about the types of physician support(s) that exist so that attendees are cognizant of the breadth and depth of discussion that will be taking place in Penticton.

“We know that [physicians] want to support each other,” says Overhill, “but we need to understand the different ways of doing it, and what might be the best approach to take under certain circumstances. We don’t necessarily have a good understanding of physician support at this point.”

Overhill has drafted a discussion document, “Support programs for rural physicians, including mentorship” (download it now) that defines several types of physician supports, including:

  • mentorship (formal and informal)
  • peer support
  • coaching
  • leadership
  • counseling
  • role modelling
  • educational programs

She invites all physicians to review the definitions of physician support and to weigh in with comments, suggestions, opinions, and anecdotes to help shape the discussion that will take place at the 2014 RECC conference.

“As rural physicians, we often spontaneously take on [support] roles for each other – mentorship, peer support, leadership, role modelling – but that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn how to be better at it, by intentionally studying the issue and doing research about how to be the best possible support for another physician.” Overhill foresees a future where mentorship is an activity that can be undertaken as an accredited CME/CPD activity. In fact, UBC Rural Continuing Professional Development (RCPD)  is currently launching a Rural Physician Mentorship Program pilot project that offers mentors and mentees up to 17.0 Mainpro or MOC Section 1 credits for eight months of participation. “RCCbc hopes that a culture will develop where physician support, mentorship, and coaching are seen as desirable for anybody at any stage of their career, rather than as a means of addressing a problem.”

There is anecdotal evidence that structured support (such as mentorship) for physicians can and does improve practitioner health and well-being, as well as build confidence and satisfaction, leading to increased physician retention. While many BC rural communities explicitly offer formal mentorship to new rural physicians and graduates as a recruitment incentive, this type of intentional support is not universal. RCCbc would like to explore how it could intentionally foster support for physicians practicing in rural and remote communities. Are there ways in which we can be better mentors and better peer supporters?  What would an ideal peer support program involve and what would it look like? Are there ways that RCCbc can enable or facilitate formal and informal mentorship programs across the province? How can physician support be made easier and more accessible? “There will be an opportunity at the RECC conference to review what programs are currently happening, to talk about issues of coaching and mentorship, and to address IMG mentorship issues,” says Overhill. “We want people to talk about their past support experiences, to share what has worked, what needs have been fulfilled, and where they’d like to see increased level of supports.”

“We hope RECC delegates will come away from the May conference with an awareness of the possibilities and ways in which they can systematically access support for themselves, and offer support to others.” RCCbc looks forward to learning what rural practitioners want in terms of support programs and/or initiatives. We hope to see you in Penticton on May 30+ 31!

RCCbc would like your feedback on the types of supports available for rural physicians. Download “Support programs for rural physicians, including mentorship” and let us know, via the comments, email, or at 2014 RECC what you think could be done provincially to improve supports for rural practitioners.

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