Welcome to Day #2 of Emergency Medicine Wellness Week! Jump starting wellness may seem intimidating when taken as a generic and ambiguous term, much like “the cloud.” So, where to start? How do you tackle such a big issue?

We surveyed members of the ALiEM Wellness Think Tank as well as chief residents from the ALiEM Chief Resident Incubator to find some of the ongoing residency wellness initiatives across North America. We wanted to highlight five great initiatives to help kickstart your wellness push. They are low cost (if not FREE) and easy to integrate into a pre-existing wellness program. They could even be used as your program’s first wellness initiative. Although the contributions are from residents, they can be expanded or modified to fit any Emergency Medicine attending physician group – academic or community!

The Initiatives

1. Care Packages

A simple, easy way to show thought and consideration.

Sometimes, when we are pushed to the breaking point, we need the basics: the comfort provided by love and food. A great example of a thoughtful package is an off-service goodie bag that contains the key ingredients for resident survival – pens, healthy snacks, chocolate, and a personal note. This can be a pick me up during a particularly stressful month or help to ward off the ever so familiar isolation felt by an off-service colleague on their month away.

Alternatively, help to promote Wellness Week by baking your colleagues a healthy (or not so healthy) snack! Consider raising money for your programs’ future wellness events by setting out snack bins in the lounge and asking for a $1 donation for each item.

2. Wellness Announcements

Keep your institution informed of wellness!

Although not quite as edible as the previous initiative, the spoken or written word is equally as powerful in generating a sense of community. A regular announcement or newsletter highlighting birthdays, babies, engagements, social events, recent vacation photos, articles on wellness, exercise tips, and healthy food options can serve to connect the residents in your program even when they aren’t always with each other. Consider putting up a board in the lounge to feature these announcements as well so people can stay up to date on current events.

3. Town Hall

Credit: Matthias Ripp https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

Share YOUR opinion. How can the program improve?

While feeding positivity and healthy vegetable platters to residents are a great start, there are certain wellness issues that cannot be solved in this way. Some can only be improved upon by involving the people directly affected – the residents. Many programs have a monthly or quarterly meeting with chief residents, where issues are laid out without fear of repercussion as faculty are not involved in these meetings. Typically, these sessions are much more productive if constructive criticisms are brought to light and if a survey or solicitation for agenda items is sent beforehand to guide discussions. Additionally, highlighting changes that have come directly from resident feedback at these meetings can encourage continued contributions and an increased morale.

4. De-stress – Let’s UNWIND

As a group, we are highly adept at relieving stress. While a fun night out is always enjoyable, it isn’t the only way to destress. The following list are some amazing alternatives that you can implement in your program.

  1. Ice Cream Rounds: This sweet and scrumptious event can be the place for a confidential discussion of personal or professional difficulties residents have encountered. Perhaps consider a different treat for those with lactose intolerance.
  2. Furry Friends: Who doesn’t want a cute puppy to slobber all over them? Bring pets and/or therapy dogs together to a common space such as a coffee shop and watch as stress levels fall.
  3. Service Day: Organize an annual volunteer event where all emergency medicine residents, staff and alumni are invited to participate. Help your local soup kitchen, participate in community projects, or organize a fundraiser to give to a charity of your choice.
  4. Arts and Humanities Conference: Remove a traditional conference day and allow residents to experience and share something that they love outside of medicine. Whether it be spoken word, singing, dancing, playing an instrument, showing off a recent painting, or baking delicious apple pie for everyone (we highly encourage the latter), this will help remind residents that there is life outside the hospital.
  5. Sports Teams: Get staff together for a friendly monthly competition in a number of sports or form a team and sign up for a city league to compete against others. Whether you dive for volleyballs in the sand, break some ankles on the basketball court (figuratively, not literal), or score a goal on the soccer field, the possibilities are endless. This is a great way to foster a collegial environment in and out of work.

5. Recognition

Acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of those around you!

Institutions around the nation have recognition programs where residents or staff are highlighted for their positive actions. Wellness announcements already discussed in this post can congratulate and recognize staff who have contributed positively to the work environment. This could be a resident that made the zebra diagnosis, went above and beyond in providing patient care, or otherwise has been “all stars” or team players. You can collect nominations through an online submission form or a physical box in the ED where people can submit nice or thoughtful comments. There doesn’t always have to be a winner – one program has a facilitator read through monthly “shout outs” of amazing things that have been done the past month. Consider developing a recognition program if you don’t have one already, we all love to be recognized for our efforts!

What Next?

We are continuing to collect initiatives, we would love to hear from you! Initiatives can be big or small, individually focused or group activities. All that is required is that they are wellness-minded and time-tested. Please consider submitting your own initiatives HERE!

Feeling inspired to join the movement? Consider the following:

1. Resident Wellness Consensus Summit

  • Essentials of Emergency Medicine is excited to announce that we are partnering with EMRA, ALiEM, and the Wellness Think Tank to produce an exciting new event exclusively for residents. Our Resident Wellness Consensus Summit will be free to registered Essentials of EM resident attendees, and will take place on May 15, 2017. This unprecedented event will feature discussions, workgroups, and consensus-based action plans on a range of resident wellness topics and the proceedings of this consensus will be published in The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine. Space is limited, so register for Essentials now to reserve your space. The special pricing will end February 1st!

2. Apply to Hippo EM’s Fellowship

Head to CanadiEM’s website tomorrow, January 24, 2017, for our next wellness post on “30 minutes? That’s enough to stay well”.

Happy Wellness Week!


Thanks to Michael Zdradzinski (Emory University), Arlene Chung (Mount Sinai), Albert Mallia (University of Alberta), Janae Hohbein (University of Illinois at Chicago), Samantha Calder-Sprackman (University of Ottawa), Zafrina Poonja (University of Saskatchewan), Liang Liu (University of Texas Southwestern), William Denq (George Washington University), Melissa Cummings (Christiana Care), Dan Axelson (University of Cincinnati), Melissa Cummings (Christiana Care), Jennifer Tango (Loma Linda), Theresa Hsiao (Albert Einstein), Fareen Zaver (University of Calgary), and Dan Axelson (University of Cincinnati) for contributing these great ideas!

Thanks to Theresa Hsiao (Albert Einstein), Liang Liu (UTSW), Zafrina Poonja (University of Saskatchewan), Tanner Gronowski (Doctors Hospital), and Theresa Hsiao (Albert Einstein) for the photos!

William Denq, MD CAQ-SM

William Denq, MD CAQ-SM

Assistant Professor
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of Arizona
William Denq, MD CAQ-SM


Clinical Assistant Professor Emergency Medicine and Sports Medicine University of Arizona George Washington University '18 University of Pittsburgh '14 and '10
Fareen Zaver, MD

Fareen Zaver, MD

Chief Operating Officer, Chief Resident Incubator 2017-18
Lead Editor/Co-Founder of ALiEM Approved Instructional Resources - Professional (AIR-Pro)
Champion, 2016-17 ALiEM Chief Resident Incubator
Board Member, 2016-17 ALiEM Wellness Think Tank
Deputy Head - Education and Clinical Assistant Professor for Emergency Medicine
University of Calgary Emergency Department
Fareen Zaver, MD


@UCalgaryEM Clinical Educator, interests in transition to practice, gender equity, #FOAMed @ALiEMteam & @WeAreCanadiEM #Meded #genderequity
E. Liang Liu, MD

E. Liang Liu, MD

Emergency Medicine Chief Resident
Department of Emergency Medicine
Parkland Hospital, UT Southwestern Medical Center
Nicole Battaglioli, MD

Nicole Battaglioli, MD

Champion, 2016-17 ALiEM Chief Resident Incubator Chief Operating Officer, 2016-19 ALiEM Wellness Think Tank Assistant Professor of EM University of Kentucky
Nicole Battaglioli, MD


EM Doc- Wellness Think Tank- Wilderness Medicine Lover- Cupcake Connoisseur. Views and opinions are my own. #WellnessTT