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A Time for Recovery… and Continued Resilience

Dr. Nancy Whitmore

As I begin writing this in early March of 2022, it’s tempting to say that the Omicron variant, and indeed the entire COVID-19 pandemic, is finally in our rear-view mirror. Hospital and ICU admissions are down. Vaccines are readily available. Travel restrictions, capacity limits, and mask mandates are gradually becoming a thing of the past.

But it also feels like we have been here before, that we are once again finished with this virus before the virus is finished with us. Many things remain uncertain, and it seems the world continues to demand a tremendous amount of vigilance and resilience from us all. For many physicians across Ontario, it remains unclear whether we will ever return to 2019’s definition of “normalcy.”

And maybe there’s a silver lining. As difficult as COVID-19 has been, it has provided us with a unique opportunity to examine how we do things and discover opportunities to improve. A significant challenge to our recovery will be to deal with the backlog of cancelled surgeries and delayed procedures. But we also have a chance to look at the whole system, identify inefficiencies and continue the innovations we adopted in our everyday practices during the pandemic.

COVID-19 was also invaluable in bringing conversations around physician health to the forefront. For our part, the College is continuing its focus on the ongoing issue of physician burnout. As you’ll read in this issue’s cover story, burnout was a major issue before the pandemic, was exacerbated by the pandemic, and will remain a very significant issue during the post-pandemic era. Institutional and health system change are essential to addressing this issue. And as a key part of the health system, it is critically important that physicians themselves are healthy and able to provide empathy to the patients they care for.

As difficult as COVID-19 has been, it has provided us with a unique opportunity to examine how we do things

Our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) is a fundamental aspect of our mandate as a regulator. The studies are clear: our most marginalized and vulnerable patients and colleagues became even more so during the pandemic, and we can no longer ignore the barriers they face in the health care system. Indeed, I’m writing this in the wake of Black History Month (BHM) and International Women’s Day (IWD), which we marked here at CPSO. While BHM and IWD are celebrations of all that Black people and people who identify as women have achieved, they are also an observance, a recognition of the barriers they continue to face as we strive toward a more equitable world.

I also want to share our recently launched Quality Improvement (QI) webinars with you. The webinars will help participants learn more about the QI program, including a virtual overview of the online tools and an opportunity to discuss the benefits of utilizing a QI lens. We’re set to offer these webinars throughout 2022.

Our most marginalized and vulnerable patients and colleagues became even more so during the pandemic

Finally, I am excited to announce that we have launched a new monthly podcast series called, In Dialogue. This series features leading experts on a variety of health system issues, including delivery of quality care, various EDI topics, and physician burnout. In our inaugural episode, we speak with psychiatrist and physician wellness expert, Dr. Mamta Gautam, about her work in physician health and well-being. I encourage you to listen to these great conversations on eDialogue or directly on Soundcloud — they’re going to be very illuminating!