Creating a Learning Environment on the Clinical Platform to Promote Well-being
The College of Health Science’s second webinar on academic bullying began with a presentation by Dr Mary Ana Cordero Díaz who heads the Well-being and Professionalism Program for medical residents at the Tecnologico de Monterrey, School of Medicine and Health Sciences Tec Salud, Monterrey, México. Her presentation focused on creating a learning environment on the clinical platform to promote well-being as a professional competence.
Professor Ncoza Dlova, Dean and Head of the School of Clinical Medicine, initiated the conversation around academic bullying at UKZN. She commented, ‘This is a sensitive topic but one that we need to deal with to create a nurturing environment for our students and better role models for our future leaders. A well-rounded healthcare professional will in turn have a profoundly positive effect on patients and on the healthcare system in general.’
Professor Mergan Naidoo, academic leader of teaching and learning in the School of Nursing and Public Health and a family physician by training introduced the theme by stating, ‘The learning and organisational environment has a profound effect on the training of a student. An unsupportive learning environment impairs student development, contributes to low pass rates in national fellowship examinations and impairs the experiences of undergraduate students, thereby limiting their development as part of the healthcare team. Creating a positive learning environment hence extends beyond the student’s educational experience to the broader workplace environment, including the quality of patient care. The experience must thus be exceptional and provide a quality of care beyond the physician’s capabilities into the broader workplace environment.’
According to Díaz, ‘It is essential that medical residents, medical students and all healthcare professionals become aware of their own vulnerabilities. We have to stop the mistreatment of our colleagues. This is an act of violence and places the lives of each of us at risk.
‘The COVID-19 crisis has presented an opportunity for us to create a balance between work and our personal lives but it has also led to burnout amongst healthcare workers. This in turn gives rise to exhaustion, cynicism and inefficiencies. Take the time to foster your professional well-being,’ said Díaz.
Díaz cited an American study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which highlighted the stark reality of bullying behaviour amongst surgery residents. The study found that among 7 409 residents from all 262 surgical residency programmes, 31.9% reported discrimination based on their self-identified gender, 16.6% reported racial discrimination, 30.3% verbal or physical abuse (or both), and 10.3% sexual harassment. Sadly, 4.5% of residents reported having had suicidal thoughts during the past year.
At the Tecnologico de Monterrey, School of Medicine and Health Sciences Tec Salud; Díaz and her team have implemented well-being programmes for health care trainees and professionals as an institutional responsibility. The main goals are to improve residents’ educational outcomes, and support them to improve their personal well-being and plan their future career. Recent studies have highlighted three areas of concern, that is; medical residents’ well-being, the relationship between professionalism and well-being and patient safety in the clinical learning environment.
For Díaz, mentoring is key to creating a learning environment on the clinical platform and promoting well-being as a professional competence. ‘One also needs to create a positive work and learning environment, reduce the administrative burden on residents, enable new technologies, provide support to clinicians and students and lastly, invest in a lot more research on this topic,’ she said.
You can access the webinar on the UKZN YouTube channel.
Look out for our third topic in the series which will focus on medical student and medical registrar testimonials at tertiary organisations in South Africa.
Words: MaryAnn Francis