Adult Gastroenterology Training Program

Stress During Residency

The Gastroenterology Training Program makes every effort to provide a friendly and supportive environment for its residents. However, there are a variety of support systems available to residents to provide assistance with stress and / or personal problems.

Support within the Gastroenterology Residency Program

  1. Peer support through the resident group has been helpful in reviewing aspects of the program and/or resident development related to issues of stress. A Resident Buddy System is designed to provide first year incoming residents with peer support. Each incoming PGY 4 resident is paired with a PGY 5 resident. Resident buddies help with advice on making the transition from Internal Medicine to Gastroenterology residency, including information about the city, the program, and clinical service / call system.
  2. The Program Director attempts to build a close relationship with the trainees and residents are made aware that the Program Director will make all reasonable efforts to ameliorate stressful personal, health, and work-related situations – including intervening in situations in which there is personal conflict between the resident and other faculty members.
  3. A Mentorship Program is designed to provide residents with faculty support and guidance as they navigate their residency training. Each trainee is assigned a mentor who will be available to discuss problems ranging from personal (e.g. stress) to professional (e.g. career choices). The mentor is expected to develop a special relationship with the trainee over the duration of his or her stay in the program, meet individually with the resident on a regular basis, provide general counselling on professional matters, monitor the well-being of the individual and his/her family, and identify and address any signs of difficulty.
  4. The External Program Ombudsperson is available to offer confidential, informal, and independent information and advice; as well as, provide intervention and referrals for residents. The Ombudsperson acts as an advocate for Gastroenterology residents on equity and fairness in mediating program-related conflicts. All matters dealt with are held in strictest confidence.

Support through Postgraduate Medical Education and McMaster University

Support is available through the Postgraduate Medical Education Office and information about resident support systems is distributed at registration (Housestaff Support Systems) and is available on the Postgraduate Medical Education Office website.

  1. Human Solutions – Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) offers a broad range of services for Residents and their dependent family members including:
  • Plan Smart Services which are designed to provide life balance solutions. These services include consultation with a specialist, as well as package of valuable support and resource material. Topics covered include: eldercare, childcare, pre-retirement planning, financial planning, legal advisory, career counselling, e-learning courses for a range of life and leadership skills.
  • Health Management Services which are designed to provide a range of relevant and timely health related information. The online health library offers a wide variety of relevant articles and up-to-date information supported by the Canadian Medical Association. The online Health Planning tools can assist residents in setting and reaching health-related goals such as proper nutrition, exercise, and overall personal well-being. Nutritional counselling that includes one-on-one support and customized information is available.
  • Counselling that focuses on addressing specific problems, working with a highly trained professional. All clinicians are either Master level counsellors or PhD Psychologists. Counselling areas include, but are not limited to: communication, family dynamics, marriage dynamics, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, clinical assessment, learning and motivation, child and adolescent development, parenting, addictions, and personality development.
  1. The Postgraduate Medical Education Office, in conjunction with the Department of Psychiatry, facilitates confidential professional counselling services for residents, if required. Residents reluctant to use local services are assisted with arrangements for help in other communities.
  2. In conjunction with the Department of Family Medicine, the Postgraduate Medical Education Office will assist residents in finding a family physician to help with long-term personal or stress related issues.
  3. A social worker (Valarie Spironello, who specializes in life work balance and wellness can assist residents in using a mindfulness approach to improve wellness in body, mind and spirit. Visits are confidential and are covered under the Resident Benefit Plan as per the PAIRO agreement.
  4. The University Office of Human Rights and Equity Services is available to assist with issues surrounding sexual or non-sexual harassment, discrimination and complaint resolution. The Faculty of Health Sciences Advisor, Professionalism (Robin Edwards, 905-525-9140 ext. 22417), is also available to consult residents on behavioural issues and matters of professionalism.

Support outside the Academic Environment

Support services are available through:

  1. The Professional Association of Interns and Residents of Ontario (PAIRO) Helpline (1-866-HELP-DOC) is a 100% confidential service that is available 24 hours a day for residents and their families. The PAIRO – Physician at Risk Committee also organizes one session per year of the Postgraduate Medical Education Office’s Multidisciplinary Academic Half-Days, which deals with issues surrounding resident well-being. 
  2. The Ontario Medical Association Physician Health Program (1-800-851-6606) is a confidential program for physicians and their families at risk of or suffering from stress, burnout, mental health and substance use to physicians and their families with expedited referral to third party providers.
  3. Distress Centre of Hamilton (905-525-8611) provides a 24 hour telephone service for individuals with varying degrees of crisis.
  4. The Salvation Army Suicide Prevention Services provides a 24 hour telephone support (905-522-1477), intervention, and referrals for individuals experiencing varying degrees of crisis.

Issues of Harassment

Harassment and intimidation includes but is not limited to unfair work demands or workload abuse, discrimination, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and reprisal for having lodged or being a witness in a harassment or intimidation complaint. The Gastroenterology Residency Program and McMaster University have zero tolerance for harassment. Both the Postgraduate Medical Education Office and the Internal Medicine Residency Program Office at McMaster University have policies and procedures to deal with intimidation, harassment, and abuse. Residents should deal with these issues in that way that makes them most comfortable – complaints may be informal (unwritten) or formal (written). No one shall be compelled to proceed with a complaint. Reprisal of the complainant for involvement in this process will not be tolerated. Confidentiality of the identity of the complainant and the respondent will be protected.

Residents have the option of discussing their concerns with the individual involved in the incident, a friend or colleague (including the Chief Resident), the family physician, the Clinical Supervisor, the Site Coordinator, the Program Director, the Mentor, the External Program Ombudsperson, and/or the Assistant Dean, Postgraduate Education. If the incident involves human rights (e.g. based on sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, age, skin color, etc), the resident can also directly discuss the issue with the University Office of Human Rights and Equity Services.

If a formal complaint is submitted to the Residency Program Director, Division Director, or Postgraduate Education, University counsel will be sought in consultation with the Program Director, Division Director, and Assistant Dean, as appropriate. If the incident falls within the University definition of human rights related harassment, the University Office of Human Rights and Equity Services will be consulted. The complaint should be made in a timely fashion (no later than 12 months from the date of the harassment. The complaint should include dates, names of individuals involved, and a full description of the event. The respondent will be notified that a complaint has been filed and, with the permission of the complainant and respondent, a meeting will be scheduled with the Assistant Dean, Postgraduate Education and/or Program Director and/or Clinical Supervisor and appropriate University counsel. The group will attempt to arrive at a negotiated process. However, if the group reaches the conclusion that no resolution is possible, both the complainant and respondent will be informed in writing within 5 working days of that determination. If the complainant and/or respondent are not satisfied with the decision of the group, a request may be made in writing for a formal hearing. This request will be forwarded to the Board of Governors.

If the reported incident is patient related, it must be reported to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.