VPSA funding Vancouver Community Long-Term Care commensality group

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There are 27 Long-Term Care Medical Coordinators working independently in their nursing homes throughout Vancouver Community. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, regular business meetings have been conducted online, and opportunities to meet in person are few and far between.

“Medical Coordinators work in silos by the nature of their jobs, which is why I used to host quarterly in-person breakfast meetings,” said Medical Director of Long-Term Care for Vancouver Community Dr. Marla Gordon. “We lost the in-person human connection during the pandemic and many new Medical Coordinators have joined since then who, until recently, never had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with colleagues.”

That’s starting to change thanks to VPSA funding for commensality sessions. The dinners are open to all Long-Term Care Medical Coordinators and are opportunities to gather and share ideas, stories, and a meal.

The first get together was held at a restaurant in October with participants discussing ways to enhance collegiality in their nursing homes. Dr. Judith Hammond brings home-baked cookies to work, while Dr. Steve Larigakis organizes and funds dinner meetings with his medical team. Dr. Stan Karon shared how his nursing home’s monthly all-staff potluck lunches have increased job satisfaction and enhanced working relationships. The group also brainstormed ways to have physicians, who are not usually invited to nursing home get togethers, included.

“The most important aspect of our commensality meetings is that we are able to get together outside of work and network,” said Dr. Gordon. “I was worried initially that we could not accommodate our large group for the dinner meetings. The Mayo Clinic’s studies of commensality groups report that small groups of six to 10 are best for networking and providing a supportive environment. We have had 10 physicians sign up for each of our two dinners to date, and if some people can’t make the date due to scheduling conflicts, they will attend the next one. Ten seems to be the number that worked out organically and we haven’t had to turn anyone away.”

Dr. Gordon views the commensality dinners as a special time to engage with the Medical Coordinators and learn about other aspects of their lives.

“It really is all about getting to know each other on a different level: whether hearing about family, hobbies, life before medicine, travel and/or adventures,” she said. “Since we are all fundamentally connected by our common work in long-term care,  we still weave in discussions of our work, and it’s been important for everyone to hear positive attributes and some challenging issues that we share.”

Physicians who have attended the meetings say they feel reassured knowing others have similar work issues. They also appreciate putting a face to a name and knowing they can reach out to colleagues if they need advice.

The group’s next two dinners are already planned and with VPSA providing $25 towards the meals for each attending physician, participants are keen to try new restaurants. The commensality dinners are helping them become foodies as well as friends!

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