Dec. 19, 2022

Medical students praise SMA initiative to provide healthy food options during hospital rotations

Medical students are praising a Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) program that provided them with healthy food options during their long hours spent in hospital rotations at distributed learning sites across the province.

The SMA’s Physician Health Program provided the healthy food choices to students in 2022 with funding from the Physician Wellness+ Initiative.

“It allowed us to have meal options when other options were closed. It provided nutrition when other options may not have been as good for us. It also brought happiness to our cohort,” said fourth-year medical student Eman Abdulhadi.

“I can remember many times walking into the lounge and people being excited about the food that was delivered. It also helped us save some money particularly when the only option may have been a food delivery service.”

The Physician Wellness+ Initiative is a partnership of Scotiabank, the Canadian Medical Association and MD Financial Management created in 2020 to address the urgent and ongoing health and wellness needs of physicians and medical learners. The SMA, which was allocated $1 million over the four-year span of the program, has been developing initiatives under the PHP, including funding healthy food options for medical learners.

Abdulhadi noted like other medical students at Regina General Hospital, she has access to the hospital cafeteria until 6 p.m. and community restaurants thereafter. Sandwiches are delivered to the students’ lounge at about 3 p.m. for students staying for call in the evening. However, the SMA grant enabled students to request a greater variety of healthy food options from their wellness committee.

“We saw an influx of quick easy grab and go options like fruits, nuts and cheese and granola bars. We also saw some meals that could be heated during a break from call that made it easy to access food when the hospital options were closed,” she said.

The PHP’s intent was to contribute to student’s physical, mental, and nutritional wellness, and to improve their workplace environment so that they could better care for their patients. Asked to provide feedback in a survey, students were unanimous in their praise of the program.

“Often, we are on call with no access to food in the hospital in the late evening and through the night,” one student responded in answer to the survey. “When we are working often 24-hour shifts, having access to healthy food at all hours is extremely important. The healthy food supplied to medical students was used and appreciated daily and I had countless students voice their appreciation and note how helpful this was for them.”

Abdulhadi said students greatly benefited from the initiative and hope similar programs can be implemented in the future. 

“I could walk into the lounge during a busy call shift and immediately have a nutritious option at my fingertips,” she noted. “We also could depend on these options on days when we were just too busy to think about planning for meals the next day. Lastly, along with the medical students, resident physicians who also use the lounge greatly appreciated the food and would frequently make requests for certain food items.”

The Saskatchewan Medical Association appreciates funding from Scotiabank, MD Financial and the Canadian Medical Association as part of their Physician Wellness+ Initiative to address the urgent, ongoing health and wellness needs of our medical community. This article was made possible by the Physician Wellness+ Initiative.

It allowed us to have meal options when other options were closed. It provided nutrition when other options may not have been as good for us. It also brought happiness to our cohort.

Eman Abdulhadi, medical student

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