Jan 19, 2024

Physicians Helping Physicians: Kickstarting the Peers for Joy in Work Program

Faculty, Quality and Innovation

DFCM’s latest faculty wellness initiative helps family doctors at all stages of their careers rediscover their joy in work

Peer Guides and leadership from the Peers for Joy in Work program gathered together

In a collaborative effort to promote faculty and physician wellness, the Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) has introduced Peers for Joy in Work. Designed by members of the department, Women’s College Hospital, and Certified Professional Coach Dr. Sarah Smith, the program aims to help faculty members reclaim what they love about family medicine.

“There are meaningful and evidence-based methods that can foster joy in work—particularly having some choice and control over your time to focus on the activities that add value to you, your patients, and colleagues,” explains Dr. Navsheer Gill, who co-leads the program with Dr. Noah Ivers and Dr. Tara Kiran.

The team reached out to all DFCM faculty members with the opportunity to become trained Peer Guides—family physicians equipped with the tools and expertise to help other physicians take control of their day-to-day and rediscover joy in their work. Now, 30 Peer Guides are available to support up to 60 Peer Learners when the program starts in February.

The program was designed to give physicians a colleague and friend who is trained to be a great listener and wants to help them remember what drove them to become a family physician,” says Dr. Gill, who is also a family doctor at Humber River Hospital and DFCM’s Wellness lead. “The ideal Peer Learner is anyone and everyone looking to regain more control over their work life to make more space for joy, and anyone who’s open to learning about managing their day-to-day clinical work and navigating the challenges that come up in primary care.”

Peer Learners will complete three 30-minute sessions with their Peer Guides, who are trained to be a listening ear and to take a step back to identify issues and help Peer Learners navigate what can be done to manage, improve, find solutions for, or think differently about the challenges.

According to Dr. Gill, one effective technique for cultivating her own joy is taking control of her time.

“Because of the system we work in, there are some issues that we cannot change. But can we think and do things differently to create change in our daily work?”

“For example, it takes me a certain amount of time to do my charting, but if I try to squeeze in one more patient, accommodate another request, or take another phone call every day, I’ve lost that time I set aside and I’m working late, constantly running behind, and not feeling great,” she says. “It can be so helpful to have someone else reinforce that it’s OK to block your calendar to complete tasks like charting, and that we should respect our own boundaries to protect that time so we can go home and spend time with our families.”

The program is a reminder that for family doctors to do their jobs well, they must be well themselves. That means feeling energized at the end of the day and excited for the next.

The team hopes that both guides and learners will work on being open about challenges and encouraging people to be comfortable identifying when they are not doing well and sharing that feeling sooner—something many tend to just “power through.”

“We can really only perform at our best when we’re feeling joyful and content within our workspace,” Dr. Gill says. “It’s important to take care of ourselves. We give our patients this advice all the time but we are not good at taking it. It comes with a lot of guilt, so we’re hoping this program will create a space where people can safely share their challenges with someone who knows and has often experienced the same.”

The Peers for Joy in Work program is led by Dr. Noah Ivers, Dr. Navsheer Gill, Dr. Tara Kiran, Dr. Jennifer Shuldiner, Dr. Noor Ramji, Dr. Susie Kim, Erin Plenert, and Kirsten Eldridge. It begins February 2024 and, in addition to helpful techniques to find joy in their work, Peer Learners will receive a total of 4.5 Mainpro+ credits upon completion of three sessions.

Click here for more information about the program or to become a Peer Learner.