Call for volunteers: Trainee Wellbeing Working Group

Want to make life better and/or easier for grad students & postdocs in the Faculty of Medicine? Join the Trainee Wellbeing Working Group!

This working group will bring together interested grad students and postdocs from across programs/sites to:
  • Share experiences, resources, and ideas
  • Collaborate on faculty-wide or multi-program events/initiatives
  • Discuss needs for support and/or funding for wellbeing efforts
  • Identify wellbeing-related concerns to bring to Faculty leadership
  • Identify ongoing issues that may require ongoing advocacy for change; collaborate with Wellbeing Support Coordinator to make plans to address these issues
  • Offer feedback on wellbeing programs & services being developed by the Graduate & Postdoctoral Education (GPE) Office
  • Other activities, as needed and decided upon by the group

Having only recently finished my own PhD, I know trainees have many demands on their time and energy. Ultimately I’m imagining the working group might meet quarterly (four times a year), but the commitment will be flexible: Everyone can participate as they see fit, depending on their needs and capacities.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the Trainee Wellbeing Working Group, or have questions, please contact me—Dr. Karen Ross, Grad & Postdoc Wellbeing Support Coordinator—as soon as possible. The first meeting will take place in July.

Why do we need a Trainee Wellbeing Working Group, anyway?

The other day, I was feeling bogged down in minutiae (and Zoom fatigue) and uncertain of what to do next. I decided to shut down my Outlook/Zoom/Skype/countless browser tabs and get out my trusty markers, sticky notes, and chart paper. This strategy—switching from screen to whiteboard, voice memo, etc.—forces us to literally interact differently with a problem or task; I would use it to “zoom out” and get un-stuck while working on my dissertation. “Okay,” I said aloud to myself, “I’m a Graduate & Postdoctoral Wellbeing Support Coordinator. What does that mean?” I tried to clear my mind of jargon to ask: at its core, what is my job? The answer that came to me: “make life better and/or easier for grad students and postdocs.”

Since then, I’ve been using this phrase as a touchstone. It might not be perfect—for instance, “easy” isn’t always the goal, since the right level of challenge can foster growth, flow, and meaning—but it’s a useful shorthand. It also prompts a fresh reading of “student services”: My job is to serve students and postdocs. Their (your) priorities must inform everything I do.

So that means I need a clear and current sense of your priorities! I know Faculty of Medicine trainees have been surveyed about Wellbeing multiple times, including last month (May 2020). These survey data give me some excellent starting points, both about supports trainees would value (e.g., an embedded counsellor at off-campus research sites) and about the importance of preventing undue stress and distress in the first place through attention to issues like supervision, economic security, isolation, and job prospects.

Although I’m building an understanding of areas needing change, changes also need to make sense on the ground—in the settings where UBC Faculty of Medicine trainees live and work and study (currently including virtual settings). That’s where the Trainee Wellbeing Working Group comes in. I know some trainees are working hard to foster wellbeing within their programs and sites, but have limited opportunities to collaborate and share resources. The working group will create space for wellbeing champions to build off each other’s excitement and momentum, and to scale up successful initiatives where appropriate. I hope you’ll consider joining us!