Healthy Living in the North

Workplace burnout: How to avoid that stressful, sinking feeling

Raina Fumerton and her son posing outside.Physician burnout is a relatively common experience in BC and elsewhere. Life at work, and outside of work can be busy, chaotic, and stressful. It can, at times, feel overwhelming. I won’t pretend that I’ve got everything “figured out” or that I don’t have episodes of regression/remission to unhealthy habits, but I can share some strategies that have helped me to move in a healthier direction. As a physician, these help me – but can be just as beneficial for anyone!

As much as possible, stay positive. I know this sounds corny, but it’s true. It’s also hard to do and takes active effort (for me anyway). There are times, usually when I’m tired, when I tend to move to a negative outlook instead of a positive one. However, in my experience, cynicism can be very destructive and can lead to even more feelings of disempowerment and frustration, and can also be quite contagious. It’s been helpful to me to be aware of this tendency towards negativity, actively acknowledge it without judgment, and then trying to take a more compassionate and positive approach. Trying to see things from a different point of view and finding new opportunities from what might initially have felt like a failure can also be helpful.

Make realistic goals every day. Accomplishing small but realistic goals each day gives me the energy and motivation to stick with some of the longer term goals and projects I have on the go.

Be kind to myself and to others. A safe and respectful workplace is a culture that allows me to thrive. No matter the setting, saying thank you and showing gratitude to others for the many things that they do is a great way to ensure that I contribute to a positive and healthy environment that enables myself (and others) to thrive, both in the workplace and beyond. As a public health physician, I work on issues that can be quite controversial and divisive. As such, not having an expectation of myself to make everybody happy is also helpful. I take positions and make decisions based on public health ethics and on evidence; I have learned to accept that while people may disagree with me, I hope that they can respect and appreciate my process.

Posture. Sit up straight or stand up! I spend a lot of time at a desk and in front of a computer and am fortunate to have a sit-stand desk, which allows me some diversity/flexibility. I find when I pay attention to my posture, it has positive effects on me, both physically and mentally.

Exercise. I am not a morning person, and quite frankly I am not easily pulled away from the comfort of my home in the evenings either! However, I am lucky to have a workplace that is within walking distance from my home and a fabulous local fitness studio that hosts lunchtime exercise classes. I find incorporating exercise into my daily commute (e.g. walking to work) and/or daily lunchtime regime is far more effective than trying to find time in the early mornings or evenings, particularly now that I have children. The lunchtime classes really energize me at a critical juncture in the day which enables me to be more productive in the afternoon.

Spend time with my son (and soon to arrive baby daughter). Admittedly this can go both ways (there are definitely times where one’s children can affect one’s life balance in a negative way as well!). However, in general and overall, I experience a lot of joy in allowing myself to engage in his playful and curious ways and exploring the world through his eyes. He has the absolute best and most infectious (and therapeutic) laugh I’ve ever heard.

Spend time in nature. Living in beautiful northwestern BC, there is no shortage of highly accessible, stunning outdoor adventures and escapes to be enjoyed. I am fortunate to have a wide range of options at my fingertips for all four seasons. I try to make a purposeful effort to get outdoors every day, even if it’s just for a short walk, on my own, or with friends or family.

Raina Fumerton

About Raina Fumerton

Dr. Raina Fumerton is a public health physician and a Medical Health Officer in the northwest.

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“3D”: Drugs, Dinos, and Dinner – Another unique conference in Tumbler Ridge

By Dr. Charles Helm & Heather Gummow

The second “3D conference” – Drugs, Dinos and Dinner – was held in Tumbler Ridge from May 25–27. Nearly 70 physicians, pharmacists, paramedics and nurses registered, a number that swelled to 120 at the Saturday evening banquet with the inclusion of spouses and families. This was probably the largest ever medical gathering in northeast BC.

Physicians are learning tendon repair using pigs' legs.

Dr. Stuart Johnston teaching tendon repair and skin flaps (using pigs’ legs) to Dr. Kalun Boudreau, Fort St. John and James Wilkie, Resident physician, Fort St. John. Dr. Charles Helm, Chief of Staff Tumbler Ridge, observing.

Conference participants were treated to ten hours of stimulating talks, featuring Tom Perry, Rita McCracken, Cait O’Sullivan, and Emma Reid of the Therapeutics Initiative, a UBC-based think-tank that rigorously analyzes evidence on which medications work and which don’t. “Deprescribing” was emphasized – trying to get by with fewer medications and eliminating those that may be harmful. Dr. Stuart Johnston provided a talk on hand injuries and conducted a practical workshop on tendon repair and skin flaps (using pigs’ legs), and Dr. Trevor Campbell spoke engagingly on non-drug treatment of chronic pain. Five exhibitor booths provided for extra learning opportunities, all completely free of pharmaceutical industry involvement.

So far, that’s not too unusual for a northern BC medical conference, but many similarities end there. Firstly, there was no registration fee for the 3D conference. Each northern BC community is entitled to Community Funds to devote to educational activities. The Tumbler Ridge physicians decided to use all of their reverted funds to create this regional conference of benefit to all, which physician groups in Fort St John, Dawson Creek, Valemount, McBride and Northern Health then generously supported, aided by a much appreciated donation from Conuma Coal.

Physician throwing a tree off the trail.

Resident physician from Fort St. John, BC Vikrant Grewal throwing a tree off the trail as the team worked to “give back” to the community of Tumbler Ridge.

Secondly, the palaeo theme reigned supreme, with the welcome supper served amid dinosaur attractions that are available nowhere else in BC. The Dinosaur Discovery Gallery was in ‘idling mode’ due to lack of funding, but Dr. McCrea, Dr. Buckley, and staff, all of whom had recently had their positions terminated due to the Museum funding situation, came in and conducted participants though four stations: the gallery, collections, preparation lab, and photogrammetry lab. Field trips followed to a dinosaur footprint site, a birding excursion, and a hike to the end of the magnificent Titanic Rock (expertly guided by the president of the local hiking club).

Thirdly, ‘payback’ for medical residents involved a team of ten working on the hiking trails immediately after the conference, chain-sawing deadfall and throwing it off the trail, thus contributing to the comfort of visitors and tourists to Tumbler Ridge.

Draws were held for spots on three jet-boats for tours to Kinuseo Falls, and the lucky winners had the privilege of seeing this great waterfall in full spate. Add in live violin music, a live band, a local comedian (the famous ‘Aunt Lizzie’), morning fitness runs, Float Fit and Tabatha classes in the pool, and all-in-all a unique learning environment was created, cementing the reputation of Tumbler Ridge as a conference destination with a special ambience.

Southern African physicians have contributed enormously to rural health care in BC over the past decades, and two short slideshows featured different aspects of this part of the world: clinics in Zimbabwe and fossil human footprints in South Africa. However, perhaps the most unexpected part of the conference happened later, after the banquet. Dr. Tom Perry, gravely concerned about the funding challenges of the dinosaur museum (with $50,000 needed in order to re-open) worked the crowd. Within a quarter of an hour $19,000 had been pledged, helping the museum significantly towards its goal!

As for the kids, it was all about Dinosaur Camp! Recently employed museum staff Debbie Gainor and Tammy Pigeon provided them with an unforgettable experience through two mornings of dinosaur crafts, microscope demonstration of dinosaur bones and teeth, using scribe tools, tours of parts of the museum that the public doesn’t get to see, and the making and painting of plaster casts of dinosaur tracks which they were able to take home as keepsakes.

At the end of a memorable weekend, participant evaluation forms reflected the high satisfaction rate for the conference, along with a much-heard sentiment: Can we please do 3D again in 2019?

 

For further information please contact:
Heather Gummow (250)565-5814 or heather.gummow@northernhealth.ca
Dr. Charles Helm (250) 242-1101 or helm.c.w@gmail.com

Charles Helm

About Charles Helm

Charles Helm has been a family physician in Tumbler Ridge since 1992. He immigrated to Canada from South Africa in 1986. He is the author of seven books on the Tumbler Ridge area, two on the history of the northern Rockies, and one on dinosaurs for kids. He has been an active explorer in the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society, designing, building and maintaining hiking trails. His palaeontological interests, expressed through the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation, have led to numerous fossil discoveries and scientific articles. He was instrumental in the successful proposal that led to the creation of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark, the newest UNESCO site in western Canada. He and his wife Linda have two children, Daniel and Carina.

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