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Exploring group-based life review with family physicians : constructing narratives of experience and meaning Pearson, Hilary Mary

Abstract

This narrative research study was inspired by a desire to expand professional development opportunities for family physicians in Canada. Research points to increasing numbers of physicians who are unable or unwilling to continue practicing because of the overwhelming stress experienced in their work. Self-care, disclosure of personal difficulties, collegiality and help-seeking have not traditionally been fostered in medical culture and difficulties are often denied or go unnoticed until they reach a critical point. Recognizing that the current medical practice environment places the morale and sustainability of many physicians in jeopardy has underscored the importance of developing a range of initiatives to support physicians in their work and reduce professional isolation. Group-based life review is a semi-structured process designed to combine individual reflection and writing about one's experiences with sharing life stories in a small group context. It has the potential to promote self-awareness, interpersonal learning and a sense of connection and mutual support among group members. The purpose of this inquiry was to create an understanding of the multiple meanings that six family physicians made about their participation in a seven-week professional development program grounded in group-based life review. The goal of the inquiry was to gain an understanding from the participants diverse perspectives that could shed light on the viability of using group-based life review with family doctors as a means to enhance well-being and sustainability and illuminate the potential benefits and drawbacks of this approach within the context of their personal experiences and professional culture. A reflexive collaborative narrative research methodology combined with participant inquiry was used to investigate the research question and to co-construct an in-depth understanding of how each of the participants experienced joining with colleagues in the life review program. The six narratives presented in this document provide a multi-focal perspective of the experience of participating in the program and contribute to understanding the viability and effectiveness of life review as one possible means to promote well-being, collegiality and sustainability among family doctors. The doctor's stories also illuminate some of the ways in which current medical discourses impact professional development opportunities for family physicians and raise issues and questions that merit further attention by both practitioners and researchers who are seeking to develop effective initiatives to support family doctors. The narratives and thematic results that were generated in this exploratory inquiry indicate that the life review program was experienced as an effective way to promote self-care, mutual support, a sense of community and enhanced sustainability among family physicians.

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