Mental Health and the Residency Training Experience: A Photovoice Project

Dr. Justine Greer

Dr. Justine Greer is a third-year psychiatry resident at the University of Alberta. Born and raised in Saskatoon, SK, she completed her Bachelor of Science and medical degrees at the University of Saskatchewan. Since relocating to Alberta for residency, she has developed interests in teaching and promoting the wellbeing of medical trainees. Outside of work, Justine enjoys running outdoors, crocheting, and spending time with her two cats.

Dr. Olivia Guerra

Dr. Olivia Guerra is a fourth-year resident in psychiatry at the University of Alberta. She is originally from Sidney, B.C. and completed a BA Honours in Sociology with a Concentration in Health and Aging at the University of Victoria before training in medicine at the University of British Columbia Southern Medical Program in Kelowna, B.C. Her practice interests are in adult psychiatry with a focus in psychotherapy and mental health advocacy. Her other passions include hiking, gardening, painting, and travelling the world (when there isn’t a pandemic!)

Learning Objectives:

1. To review current literature on the mental health and burden of mental illness amongst resident physicians in Canada;

2. To review the proposed protocol for the project and results obtained; and

3. To discuss conclusions drawn from the results, barriers to completion, and suggestions for future directions of the project and resident mental health research.


Introduction: Research examining the impacts of residency training on mental health exists, yet there has been marginal success in improving resident well-being. Our research set out to explore whether missing aspects of the training experience are catalyzing these changes.

Objective: To create a qualitative understanding of how residency impacts residents’ mental health, the barriers faced in seeking mental health supports, build awareness and find solutions that respond to identified needs.

Methods: We attempted to recruit residents from all programs and postgraduate years at the University of Alberta to anonymously contribute photographs and short text submissions reflecting on their training and its impact on their mental health. We proposed to discuss these submissions in three resident focus groups to elicit a descriptive understanding of these issues and to utilize submissions for a poster campaign in Edmonton area hospitals.

Results: Between July 2020 to January 2021, 23 residents accessed the online survey. 14 residents provided demographic information, representing nine programs and three postgraduate years; 12 female, 2 male, and ages 26 to 35. One text-only submission, and two text and photo submissions were received. Recruitment was insufficient to complete the project.

Conclusions: Given the diversity of residents who started the survey, we conclude that there is interest in resident mental health across a broad range of demographics. Demand on residents during the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected recruitment. Resident mental health is an area that could benefit from further study. Modifications to this project design may improve participation in future studies.

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