On November 29, 2021, the Government Affairs and Advocacy Committee (GAAC) composed of medical students from the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary hosted the annual Political Advocacy Day. This event, where Alberta medical students meet with the members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to discuss a health care topic that is important to Albertans, has been taking place since 2008. The relationship established between Alberta medical students and the Alberta legislature has borne many successes in the past and will continue to allow ongoing dialogue on pertinent advocacy and policy issues.
While the primary purpose of this event is to promote health advocacy, it is also an excellent opportunity for students to develop their advocacy skills as future physicians. This event allows students to directly engage in political change and to advocate for a better health care system in an organized and professional manner. Medical students represent the future of health care in the province, and it is important to share our voice on key issues.
This year, our advocacy topic was health care worker burnout. Burnout is characterized as the culmination of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced professional efficacy. Health care burnout calls in to question the future capacity and sustainability of our health care system. It contributes to increased medical errors, substance use, workforce attrition and suicide. It also contributes to decreased patient safety and satisfaction. Sub-optimal mental health of practitioners will result in sub-optimal care for patients.
Prior to Political Advocacy Day, students were trained by experts from the Alberta Medical Association, the Canadian Federation of Medical Students and a third-party political advertiser. The event was sponsored by the Alberta Medical Association.
On November 29, about 25 medical students met with MLAs from the United Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party to deliver our call to action pertaining to the advocacy topic.