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Ontario Medical Review
September 15, 2022
Stuart Foxman

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.

You can’t take anyone for granted

The heath and wellness of your staff starts with supportive leadership

At the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, the chief of staff knows that patient well-being and physician well-being go hand-in-hand.

“I see my role as maintaining a culture of patient safety and quality of care, and a culture of physician wellness and health,” Dr. Laurel Laakso said. “That’s never more important than in these times.”

dr-laurel-laakso.jpgShe knows burnout has increased. “Everyone is overworked.”

Within health-care institutions, leaders can play a huge role in supporting the mental health of their staff. Partly, that involves destigmatizing the issue. This past spring, Dr. Laakso invited Dr. Jon Novick, medical director for the OMA’s Physician Health Program, to do a grand rounds event in Sioux Lookout about physician mental health and substance use and available resources.

Dr. Laurel Laasko, chief of staff at Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, sees her role as maintaining a culture of patient safety and quality of care, and a culture of physician wellness and health.

Dr. Laakso encourages her staff to seek help if needed and said there’s much more that those in charge can do. As a manager, you want people to feel confident in your leadership, but you also want them to know you understand their struggles. At staff meetings, she has talked about how she herself has dealt with stress. Showing vulnerability speaks volumes, she said.

Management approaches can add to a supportive culture, Dr. Laakso said. For instance, feeling that you lack control over your environment can add to workplace stress. So she keeps staff well-informed about issues facing the health centre. Transparency and allowing people to be part of decisions goes a long way, she added.

Other steps are simple yet effective. She makes a point of sending dozens of handwritten cards each month to staff to thank them for their efforts.

“You can’t take anyone for granted. I go out of my way to let them know that what they do is appreciated.”

Stuart Foxman is a Toronto-based writer.

Keeping physicians’ mental health top of mind

The Physician Health Program (PHP) takes care of the caregiver.