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Running a Trainee Wellness Day

As firm advocates of the wellness movement, having been enthused by our time with team “You Got This”, we were delighted to be asked to assist in organising the Severn Deanery Emergency Medicine Trainee Conference. Pleasingly this year trainees had requested that the focus was wellbeing (which is a shift in itself, but probably a topic for another blog). We hope this is a trend that will be replicated elsewhere, and so have compiled some of our musings on arranging such an event – which having received the feedback, we can confirm was a success:

Breadth of appeal: as converted as we are, the wellness initiative may not be for everyone and our first challenge was trying to compile a day that would appeal to the broad spectrum of enthusiasm and exposure. For some, this would be their first formal contact with the idea of ‘wellness’, and so we wanted it to be appropriately introduced and contextualised (on our day this was expertly done by Rebecca Thorpe), so as to engage as many of our group as possible, including any sceptics. We also wanted to ensure those on board with the idea were kept interested, and given new ideas to ruminate upon. We attempted this by selecting topics that would hopefully feel tangible and relevant to trainees (see next point), but also choosing speakers, for example in our Schwarz round, that were highly respected by the group, therefore giving greater impetus to the messages.

Holistic Wellbeing: as clinicians we are arguably much better at giving advice than following it, and as emergency medicine trainees, we are often strive for practical solutions +/- quick results. We decided to break down the multiple factors contributing to wellbeing, both physical and psychological, and organise our day around these topics, hoping for mass appeal, and convincing the (as yet) unconverted. As alluded to, our day covered an introduction into the concept of wellness, then continued with psychological wellbeing (with a particular slant on anxiety and stress), nutrition and sleep, then culminated in a Schwartz round. Our speakers gave useful and applicable advice that trainees have since put into practice on the shop floor – which we’re considering a success!

Forward Planning: as with any event organisation, it is important to give yourself plenty of time to arrange the day, and this was especially so with some of our guests, who were “outside” speakers, and for the most part self-employed. To keep our own wellness at optimal levels, we perhaps could have given ourselves a bit more organisational time to account for non-responders or annual leave communication lapse.

Cost: when planning be sure to find out if your speakers charge for their attendance. In the end, we were very lucky that our generous speakers were interested and passionate about the wellness of NHS workers, and very kindly lifted their fees for attending; however this may not be the case for everyone. We also utilised known contacts at our deanery to gain support for the day, as they had previously engaged some of our speakers.

Speaker Order: this is something that we considered, but were foiled somewhat by our excellent speakers’ busy schedules. It’s fairly difficult to predict audience response, however should we organise a similar event again, I think we would probably alter the order a little. We ended on a Schwartz round, which was very well received, but instigated significant emotional response. We, of course, wanted to optimise listener impact, but could potentially have ended on a more positive note, even if it meant extending the day.

“Borrow” Ideas: as you may be doing by reading this blog, it is useful borrow ideas or lean on others’ expertise. We had excellent “you got this” input, but had also chatted to trainees who had attended a similar day in a different deanery about what had worked well in the sessions. Their input really helped sculpt what turned out to be a really fun and engaging day.

Signposting: different sessions within our wellness training day provoked a variety of responses amongst the trainees attending. Bearing this in mind, it may have been useful to signpost to avenues for support or further information for those who were left needing or wanting more. In our case, we are very fortunate to have numerous engaged consultants within the deanery, whose doors are always open, alongside a professional support unit, but perhaps we should have flagged this on the day.

Learning points: finally, and most importantly enjoy yourself, and take on board the lessons from the day. For example: having listened attentively to our nutritionist, we could have bought him something other than chocolate truffles to express our gratitude! Ultimately however, we had a great time organising, and participating in the conference, and hope the initiative will continue in our area.

Rachel Taylor (@musomedic) and Kath Thomas (@DrKathThomas) are Severn Deanery Emergency Medicine Trainees

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