A plan to improve medical students’ welfare

From the wellbeing checklist to Islamophobia Awareness Month, deputy chair for welfare Zara Tebay gives an insight on the medical students committee’s priorities

Location: UK
Published: Wednesday 16 November 2022

As a queer mature student who manages a significant health condition, I have personally been impacted by several of the facets of the welfare remit, so I am delighted to be in a position where I can use my experience to help. I’d like to introduce you to the MSC (medical students committee) welfare portfolio for this session.

Broadly, welfare encompasses the health, happiness and safety of a person – so our aims are to fulfil these conditions for medical students. We recently launched the students’ wellbeing checklist, and it’s now Islamophobia Awareness Month – I wish to extend my wholehearted support to all Muslim colleagues and shall be sharing the action plan for tackling Islamophobia from the MDA (Muslim Doctors Association) in collaboration with The Grey Area.

The strategic workplans for all subcommittees (finance, welfare, education, widening participation, and member relations liaison group) were released to the MSC earlier this month, outlining their commitments for this session. These plans (and corresponding policies) came from motions passed at the annual conference, where medical students discuss the issues affecting them.

Within welfare, we will be:

  • working on improving awareness of students’ mental health issues
  • lobbying for improvements to existing support systems
  • addressing racial harassment, sexual harassment, and other harmful behaviours.

The wellbeing checklist aims to promote and protect student welfare; it is to be adopted by medical schools along with the BMA wellbeing charter. The checklist has also been circulated to students to find out how well their medical school is fulfilling the welfare criteria. If you are a medical student you should receive a link from your MSC representatives. Please give us your honest feedback – early next year when we review it, we will be able to signpost students to appropriate resources and contact medical schools directly to ask what the barriers were to achieving the checklist goals.

We’ve been working with MindHealth, a charity run by healthcare professionals who offer wellbeing resources and workshops for medical students. They feel that wellbeing and mental health should be prioritised and not simply a ‘tick-box activity’, and I couldn’t agree more. They’re launching resources at the end of November to empower students and equip us with tools to succeed and support ourselves through our challenging degree – so stay tuned for that.

We’ve also been championing the racial harassment charter and continue to promote it across the UK’s 44 medical schools. The racial harassment charter review is a report on medical schools’ progress so far, with 74% providing evidence. With a multi-ethnic workforce and patient population, it is critical to support inclusivity and diversity – and this charter outlines how we can do so.

To mark Islamophobia Awareness Month, I’d like to draw your attention to a recent article in which Khadija Meghrawi (co-chair of the MSC from last year), Salman Waqar (vice president of the British Islamic Medical Association) and Latifa Patel (BMA representative body chair) speak about faith inequality. Dr Waqar states that ‘…not allowing people to express their faith is not allowing people to express their whole self’.

Thankfully, we are all able to challenge prejudiced ways of thinking, both at an individual and a wider level. We can all become better allies to our Muslim colleagues and patients. We can make a start by following the MDA 12-point action plan, from challenging our own assumptions to establishing faith networks and workforce faith equality standards.

I urge you to begin to challenge your own personal biases and to deeply reflect on how you can celebrate diversity in your own lives and workplaces.

Across equality and inclusion, another area of focus is LGBTQIA+ needs and better resources on sexual harassment. We are continuing to lobby medical schools to sign up and implement the GLADD charter. Working with external bodies on the topic of ‘Tackling sexual and gender-based violence in UK medical education’ we are looking to develop sexual harassment guidance and raise awareness about gender-based violence, something that affects 1 in 3 women in their lifetime.

Hopefully that gives you an overview on what is evolving in welfare for the medical students committee this year. Feel free to reach out for any further information.

Zara Tebay is a 3rd year medical student at the University of St Andrews and the BMA medical students committee deputy chair for welfare.