RESIDENT: Improving Mental Health for Resident Physicians in Canada: A Qualitative and Quantitative Exploration of Knowledge, Attitudes and Barriers

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Presenting Author(s): Dr. Kimberly Williams, BSc (Pharmacology), MSc (Global Health)

Co-Author(s): Dr. Elizabeth Clement, Dr. Rachel Grimminck, Dr. David Kim, Dr. Aarun Leekha, Dr. Katarina Nikel, Dr. Amanda Ritsma, Dr. Conrad Tsang, Ms. Jasmin Yee

Date and time: 23 Mar 2019 from 14:50 to 15:10

Location: Hawthorn C  Floor Map


  1. To discuss the current state of physician health;
  2. To quantify challenges that resident physicians face in order to maintain their own wellness; and
  3. To explore solutions to resident physician burnout.

Literature References

  1. Tallentire, VR, Smith, SE, Facey, AD, et al. (2017). Exploring newly qualified doctors workplace stressors: an interview study from
    Australia. BMJ Open 2017;7:e015890.
  2. West, CP, Liselotte, ND, Erwin, PJ, & Shanafelt, TD. (2016). Interventions to prevent and reduce physician burnout: a systematic
    review and meta-analysis. Lancet, 388, 2272-81.
  3. Panagioti, M, Panagopoulou, E, Bower, P, et al. (2017). Controlled interventions to reduce burnout in physicians. A systematic review
    and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med, 177(2), 195-205.


Introduction: The prevalence of burnout, a work-related syndrome due to chronic exposure to occupational stress, is staggeringly high
among resident physicians. Resident Doctors of Canada (RDoC) has developed a practical Resiliency Curriculum to help mitigate the
negative effects of stress during residency. Many residents who experience this resiliency training have mentioned the significance of
the systemic barriers to seeking care for their mental well-being.

Objectives: RDoC explored systemic barriers to health in order to inform future advocacy efforts in order to enhance resident wellness.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional qualitative and quantitative study, which consisted of three focus groups with resident participants
from across Canada and quantitative survey data from RDoC’s national resident survey. Qualitative data was analyzed using thematic
analysis and quantitative using descriptive and frequency distribution. Bivariate analysis was done with chi-squared or t-test.

Results: Many focus group participants perceived the following themes as barriers to resident physician wellness: culture of medicine;
lack of control over their schedule; lack of wellness champions in senior roles; unavailability of resources that ensure confidentiality
when deciding whether to seek support; and lack of knowledge about available resources. These were consistent with quantitative data.
The majority of residents (51.9%) screened as positive for burnout.

Conclusion: The results demonstrate the need for advocacy with key medical education stakeholders to reduce system barriers in order
to increase residents’ autonomy over their health. Targeted advocacy and programs are needed to ensure there is less burnout of
resident physicians which will ultimately improve patient care.

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