We are strengthening the resilience of our students at every step of the way through medical school


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Medical school can be demanding on a student’s time and energy, so cultivating an integrated culture of student wellness and resilience is one of our top priorities. A variety of outreach activities to engage students have been initiated to make reaching out for help through personal counselling easy and accessible to our students.

Check Your Pulse (CYP) is an innovative initiative launched in 2010-2011 that offers first-year students the opportunity to check in with personal counsellors after their first exam to talk about the transition to medical school and to see how they are progressing. In April 2015, Shayna Kulman-Lipsey, Manager of Counselling Services at the Office for Health Professions Student Affairs (OHPSA) and her team of personal counsellors launched Wellness In Transition (WIT) to engage students entering their third year. “Transitions can be challenging times for our students, and clerkship can be very demanding,” Kulman-Lipsey says. “We want to remind students that we are available to support them during this time, and to talk about their concerns as they progress through the next phase of their medical career.”

Engagement in personal counselling has increased by 706 per cent since 2005 due to outreach efforts. “We are reaching students who may have not reached out on their own,” Kulman-Lipsey affirms. “We are also seeing at least 50 per cent of students booking follow-up appointments after their Check Your Pulse or Wellness in Transition initial appointments,” she says.

Kulman-Lipsey notes that the CanMEDS Professional Role includes self-care and self-regulation as key competencies – and counselling is one means for experiential learning in both these areas.

“Medical school is filled with stressors,” she explains. “There are huge volumes of material and new learning styles that need to be incorporated. Suddenly students find themselves not at the top of the class where they usually are, or may have trouble coping with personal issues. We see anxiety and depression, difficulties with personal relationships – issues that many individuals have. But there is still stigma associated with future doctors seeking help. We are trying dispel the stigma. We want medical students not only to reach out to help, but also reach out for help. We know from many years of research that being comfortable with reaching out for helps enhance and maintain resilience.”

Counsellors Kulman-Lipsey and Linda Ivan are intimately familiar with the demands of medical school and accommodate busy student schedules by offering evening appointments and Skype sessions. The counselling team is available to all our students who require confidential, personal counselling.

Read more about OHPSA’s wellness initiatives to support our students.

Related links

  • The student-run group Student Health Initiatives and Education (SHINE) promotes student wellness and resilience, academic skills development, and career development in partnership with OHPSA. SHINE offers monthly workshops for UME students. Past workshops topics have included mindfulness, nutrition, yoga, and relationships in medicine. To find out more about SHINE, visit the SHINE website.

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