Supporting Residents’ Well-being During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Glenn Gaviola, MD; Jisoo Kim, MD; Jose Lopez, MD, MBA; Fiona Malone, MD; Colette Martin, MD; Stephen Morales, MD; Sukjin Koh, MD; Sandra Palma, BA; Jennifer Uyeda, MD.

Photograph by Claudio Furlan / LaPresse / AP | Source: 

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our medical education environment. To support our resident physicians in these uncertain and stressful times, our Diagnostic Radiology and Integrated Interventional and Diagnostic Radiology residency programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) developed new programs focused on trainee well-being aided by our Residency Wellness Committee (RWC). The RWC comprises 7 peer-selected volunteers and a faculty mentor who support the 41 residents in the two residency programs. Our program focused on 3 strategies:

Peer support and faculty mentorship; Because peer support is important for resident well-being, we developed two new peer support programs: a Big Sib/Little Sib program to pair senior and junior residents and a system of class check-ins with each residency class holding a virtual get together to discuss personal updates, reflections, education, and stressors. Mentorship is also important for well-being. We dedicated protected time during the day for faculty mentors to check-in with their resident mentees. In support of these initiatives, the residency leadership (Program Director, Associate Program Directors, and the Program Coordinators) take part in virtual happy hour/check-ins with each class.

Promotion of psychological well-being: In the context of news of trainee strain and burnout prior to Covid-19, and considering the increased stress and uncertainty generated from the pandemic, our RWC focused closely on physician mental health. We invited Dr. Natalie Dattilo, Associate Director for the Brigham Faculty/Trainee Mental Health Program and Director of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, to discuss these issues at a recent Grand Rounds. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, we asked Dr. Dattilo to run a virtual session with our residents to discuss current issues of stress, confusion, fear, anxiety, and isolation they are facing. Suggestions for self-care included self-motivation during isolation, recognition of guilt of not being productive during isolation, and methods to deal with uncertainty and social isolation. We also collaborated with the Harvard Art Museums Director of Academic Programs to provide a session discussing various pieces of art in a collaborative manner as a reminder of pre- and post-pandemic life. In addition to this programming, with a monthly stipend dedicated to resident well-being initiatives, the RWC purchased individually packed snacks for all Radiology residents available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the residency office.

Curation of health and well-being resources: We compiled and centralized a list of well-being resources for our trainees. Sources included various mobile device applications, online websites, and podcasts with topics including family health, kids learning resources, and stress relief. These resources include the ACGME wellness podcast, exercise applications and websites, Brigham Faculty/Trainee Mental Health Program, HMS Ombuds Office and services, BWH Office of Mediation, Coaching, Ombuds and Support Services, and Partners Employee Assistant Program seminars. We also sponsor weekly virtual workout session that includes yoga, pilates, and stretching.

During these unprecedented times, stress and anxiety levels are high and social and physical isolation are inevitable. Ensuring the well-being of our trainees is of utmost importance. Our well-being curriculum highlights some important and feasible approaches that we have successfully integrated into our residency program.