Context and setting The tertiary education environment has always been regarded as highly stressful for students. Medical training further adds to an already stressful environment. The stressors of medical training and the associated negative consequences on the mental and physical health of medical students have been described in many studies. Several medical education constituencies have emphasised the importance of teaching stress management and self-care skills to medical students. Although there is a wide literature on stress management in general, its specific application to medical education has been largely unexplored. To fill this gap, we describe a stress management programme known as the ‘Medical Student Well-Being Workshop’ that runs in our medical school.
Why the idea was necessary Our school was looking for various ways to implement stress management programmes. The Medical Student Well-Being Workshop offers a unique opportunity to develop students’ skills in such areas.
What was done The workshop was run over one half-day. It was open to students from all years of the medical course and was run by academic staff from the Medical Education Department.
The objectives of the first session were to enable students to measure their stress levels according to the 12 items on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), to recognise the main stressors they face by using the Medical Student Stressor Questionnaire (MSSQ) and to identify their main coping styles by completing the Brief COPE questionnaire. Participants were given some input regarding the problems related to stress in the study of medicine, as well as in a medical career, the relationship between stress level, stressors and coping methods, and relaxation therapy using a proper breathing technique. Once they are aware of their personal results on these three fronts, students should be able to identify their own strengths and weaknesses and to develop their own self-improvement strategies to increase their resistance to stressors.
Evaluation of results and impact A total of 55 students participated in the workshop. At the end of the workshop, evaluation questionnaires were distributed to participants. Apart from basic biographical data, the questionnaire solicited participants’ ratings of the usefulness of the introductory session, the three questionnaires, the discussion sessions and the facilitators. Participants were also asked to rate the success of the workshop in achieving its objectives and its overall usefulness. In an open-ended section, participants were asked to describe the most important thing they had learned from the workshop, as well as the most important aspect that could be improved. Data were analysed using spss Version 12 (SPSS, Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). The evaluation showed that the participants rated the overall workshop as highly useful (86%) and as having achieved its objectives (82%). All sessions were rated as highly useful. Among the comments written in the open-ended section regarding the most important thing participants learned from the workshop, 40% wrote comments related to improved self-awareness. The importance of positive coping skills was mentioned by almost 28% of respondents. The fact that stress is related to one’s own perception was mentioned as most important by almost 18% and another 15% appreciated the usefulness of increased knowledge, such as the identification of stressors.