The Wellbeing Officer role entails the responsibility for leading advocacy and helping organise events on issues concerning the wellbeing of medical students. The wellbeing officer works closely with other members of the NZMSA team to develop responses to these issues, as well as taking a bird’s eye view of medical student wellbeing, and proactively providing solutions.
The wellbeing officer role centers around the following key tasks:
Coordinate wellbeing events and initiatives with a focus on medical students, at a national level.
Identify and proactively address areas of importance and/or concern with regards to the wellbeing of NZ medical students.
Act as the liaison between wellbeing reps in OUMSA, AUMSA, WHPSA, and CMSA to facilitate collegiality and increase NZMSA’s advocacy potential.
As mentioned, a significant aspect of this role is to facilitate initiatives throughout the year - recurring events we aim to organise and have coordinated in the past include the following:
ASMS NZMSA Mentoring Programme:
Launched in mid-2019, this programme grew out of a desire by medical students to explore mentoring with a senior doctor, and interest by senior doctors to mentor a medical student. The programme pairs fourth-year students around New Zealand in one on one mentoring partnerships with Consultant doctors either in person or via online platforms, thus facilitating engagement in a non-clinical environment. Although, the intention is not for career coaching or specialty-specific advice. The programme’s intention is to develop and foster well-being and resilience via the sharing of advice and wisdom from an experienced mentor.
This program has been highly successful in the past, where the majority of pairs have found the relationship incredibly worthwhile and rewarding. Medical students have appreciated the additional support whilst transitioning into the hospital environment and having someone more experienced to talk to with a non-academic focus. Other consistent feedback, although from the perspective of the Consultant doctor, is great satisfaction in being able to have a positive and meaningful impact on the next generation of doctors.
This program takes place throughout the year with the opportunity to sign-up for both mentors and mentees taking place during semester one. Once pairings are made, it is the responsibility of the pair to liaise and facilitate meetings between them at their own discretion. We encourage at least four meetings per year and if needed will provide discussion prompts.
Wellbeing month is a staple part of NZMSA’s events calendar, and is one of the most important tasks for the Wellbeing officer to facilitate. The overall aim is to encourage, improve and promote wellbeing among medical students. The specific month may vary year-to year but usually takes place during semester one.
Each year centres around a different theme, for example a previous one has been ‘Whakahihikotanga’ (inspiration and motivation) and included the Whakataukī - “hurihia to aroaro ki te ra tukuna to atarangi kia taka ki muri i a koe” meaning “turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you”.
Events have traditionally taken place at all the medical campuses in New Zealand, however, due to COVID-19, the past few years have focussed on creative ways to engage medical students through social media. Initiaties have included; wellbeing blog posts onto the NZMSA Instagram and Facebook pages as contributed by medical students from across the country, using Instragram stories to address topics such as burnout, recommending wellbeing enhancing resources, and running Instagram giveaways. Looking forward, we are excited to explore more engaging ways that we are able to promote wellbeing for medical students using online media.
How to Life Webinar Series
The ‘How to Life’ Webinar Series was an initiative that began in 2021, aiming to provide pragmatic and useful advice which is not taught in the medical curriculum. Topics revolved around; providing medical students with a better understanding of medical school and what happens beyond graduation, presenting medical students with skills to look after their own wellbeing throughout and after medical school, and encouraging future health professionals to get involved in areas outside of the medical profession.
Specifically, previous seminars included; doctors as advocates for climate change, mental wellbeing, burnout and imposter syndrome, financial wellbeing, doctors as inventors and innovators, and doctors as creatives.
The live webinars take place throughout the middle of the year on Zoom and are also live-streamed to the NZMSA Facebook page. Questions are encouraged throughout the talks.
There has been major effort in finding ways to maintain medical students’ wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We acknowledge that Covid-19 related anxiety, only exasperated by lockdown periods, isolation periods and changes in environment have had detrimental effects on students’ wellbeing. Our efforts to support medical students have mostly involved use of social media to promote advice on maintaining wellbeing, provide resources to people or organisations to contact if help is needed.