Unlocking the potential of faculty engagement is an evolving priority

Faculty of Medicine
Faculty Engagement
The Faculty Experience Team (FET) has worked hard to ensure the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine remains a rewarding place to work.

The hard work and commitment of our clinical and basic science members has made the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine a dynamic leader in medical education and research. We always strive to ensure that our members feel recognized and valued.

Continuous and meaningful faculty engagement is important. It improves the educational experience for our learners, contributes to cutting-edge research, and can provide insights on effective leadership and governance. It can also improve our members’ personal satisfaction and wellbeing as we live our organizational values.

In recent years, the Faculty Experience Team (FET), which included representatives from departments, has worked hard to ensure the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine remains a rewarding place to work by surveying members and completing comprehensive reports to help improve and enhance institutional culture.

“FET’s main goal was to make faculty member engagement a higher priority in the FoM and throughout its departments, and we achieved this,” says Dr.Erika Bariciak, chair of the FET and its representative from the Department of Pediatrics.

Indeed, in its most recent Strategic Plan, leadership has made engagement one of the Faculty’s priority areas, along with research, education, internationalization and global health, and Francophonie.

Erika Bariciak
Dr. Erika Bariciak

Since 2016, under the leadership of then-Chair Dr. Laurie McLean and with the collaboration of various offices, the FET has expanded engagement programs and strategies. It’s polled members to better understand their priorities and needs. It’s helped increase support for those pursuing promotion while nurturing a diverse and equitable environment.

The FET has enhanced recognition efforts such as awards and provided a valuable two-way dialogue between team representatives and leadership. It helped boost improved communication with faculty members, such as regular meetings between the dean and departments as well as the creation of MedFlash, the Faculty of Medicine’s internal newsletter.

Its activities have also spurred the return of yearly training for department chairs and chiefs regarding how best to conduct annual reviews. This came about following surveys conducted by the FET gauging faculty members’ perceptions about the experience. A recent series of check-in questions resulted in 180 faculty members providing feedback about their annual review experience, with 84% reporting positively. Members provided helpful ideas on ways to improve the process, largely suggesting more training for evaluators. There are two upcoming workshops to provide that training.

“I found this feedback encouraging and really appreciated the many comments both positive and negative. The chairs are working hard to make this a meaningful experience,” says Dr. Sharon Whiting, Vice-Dean of Faculty Affairs.

The Faculty Experience Team is now wrapping up its yearslong mandate and will be sunsetting. But the overall engagement work at the Faculty is well underway and will continue to evolve. Dr. Bariciak says members can be assured that the dean, the Executive Leadership Team, and various offices truly prioritize member engagement and want to find new ways of improving the member experience.

“There is definitely room for further efforts to improve member engagement and recognition, but we’ve laid a strong foundation for ongoing work to continue,” says Dr. Bariciak, who is also an investigator at the CHEO and Ottawa Hospital Research Institutes.

What role does an individual faculty member have in enhancing institutional culture?  There are numerous possibilities.

Ticking off examples, Dr. Bariciak says members can work with their department chairs to help enact changes within their own department. The Faculty of Medicine Recognition Strategy, which was created by the FET and distributed to members and departments last year, can serve as a toolkit to help provide ideas to inspire change. Members can reach out to the Faculty’s Office of Marketing & Communications to share their professional successes. The creation of the Centre for Innovation in Medical Education will, as part of its mandate, support teachers and help build greater educator engagement, satisfaction, and retention. And annual reviews are now a rich opportunity for members to communicate their needs.

On a more informal level, simple acts of collegiality and kindness can go a long way.

“Remaining cognizant of the importance of expressing our day-to-day appreciation for one another can help to foster a culture of kindness. Since there are endless ways to show recognition, we need to be comfortable with communicating our needs and open to exploring what is most relevant to those we work with,” she says. “Even the smallest recognition effort can have a tremendous impact.”

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