As medical programs across the country welcome new residents and celebrate the beginning of the medical new year, they cannot ignore the influence of the family’s adjustment to the success of a physician’s new role in residency.
Between leaving behind family and friends for a new community they know little about, with partners training over 80 hours per week, medspouses and partners are oftentimes left feeling alone and unsupported during the medical training process.
These feelings of loneliness don’t only take a toll on the physician’s spouse or partner, they leave the physician feeling helpless and worried about their loved one’s life outside the hospital.
Knowing that medspouse and partner adjustment is found to spill over into the resident’s personal and training adjustment, it makes sense to proactively address the needs of physician families to positively impact both job and overall satisfaction and success of the resident?
If you’re wondering what you can do to support physician wellness from the physician family perspective, here are 10 ways your program can help your PGY-1 spouses and partners as they start the medical new year:
1. Be quick to let them know about any spousal support programs you make available to them. The more they feel like they’re part of your community, the happier the whole family will be. If you don’t have a support program for medspouses and partners, encourage and help facilitate the creation of one.
2. Include them in get-togethers as much as possible. Even if they’re impromptu. Due to COVID, this recent class wasn’t able to get out to meet and greets or interview dinners. They’re anxious to get to know you and your community.
3. Solicit PGY-2 and PGY-3 families for input on local Facebook groups they can join. They’ll more likely want to stick around after residency if they establish roots in their local community.
4. Provide a comprehensive list of area attractions. Especially if they’re free!
5. Make sure they know about any established babysitting groups. Again, if there are none, encourage them to start one. This is vital with no family or friends around.
6. Provide a list of local community programs, including affinity programs they can join. Include any national physician spouse support chapters like AMA Alliance and Side By Side.
7. If you have the resources, establish a spouse and partner mentor program. It takes the weight off their physician partner if they have someone else to help them through tough times.
8. Educate them on signs their physician spouse is struggling. This is all new to them and these signs are often difficult to differentiate from being tired and stressed.
9. Provide them (not just the physician) a list of available resources for physician support. With physician suicide rates twice that of the general population, it’s important to also include anonymous support resources so the stigma of seeking help won’t hold them back.
10. Refer them to a free resource to connect with other medspouses and partners in their community and find resources to help them through their medical journey.
Oftentimes, the thrill of matching and starting the next chapter in a resident’s life can be overshadowed by the unknown and the anxiety that accompanies it. The above tips are an easy way to help the entire family unit acclimate into their new community and result in a positive experience for both them and your medical program. Who knows. They may even decide to hang around after residency!
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