July 8, 2020
Managing stress when the world has come to a halt
Opening Remarks and Housekeeping Julie Arel, PMCQ president
- Julie thanked all the educational sponsors, corporate partners and supporting partners
- The PMCQ board members are currently planning for the next season events. Julie noted that all the insights provided from the participants will be taken into consideration. She also invited everyone to continue sharing their suggestions to ensure that the events address real needs and interests and continue to bring value to all members.
Introduction of speaker Julie Arel PMCQ president
Today’s virtual meeting features presentations by our keynote speakers:
- Hani Kafoury: Psychologist, Coach, Facilitator, Author
- Vincent Letourneau: Associate Director, Medical Affairs, Immunology at Abbvie
Hani Kafoury Psychologist, Coach, Facilitator, Author
Mr. Kafoury started the session by discussing the global challenge that the pandemic is bringing by creating an unpredictable and changing environment. The loss of control resulting from this situation can lead to an increased level of anxiety that can become truly debilitating. However, the perception of our own capability and capacity to cope with a stressful situation is a key element in adopting a positive and constructive approach. He then revisited the cognitive-behavioral approach discussed in the last meeting and gave a brief overview of the 4 “Rs” approach to help practice cognitive distancing: Reality testing, Reframing, Ramification and Refocusing.
He continued by discussing the importance of mental presence and the impact it has on our perceptions and experience during difficult times. The mindfulness approach helps managing stress and anxiety by connecting us to the current reality at hand and not what we imagine the reality to be. It brings your attention to what is here and now and ultimately helps seeing and experiencing life events in a more healthy and balanced way. Mindfulness training has been associated with numerous benefits such as lowering levels of stress, treating anxiety and depression, improving relationships at work, developing our ‘rationality’, creativity as well as our problem-solving capabilities.
Mr. Kafoury shared the (3As) mindfulness approach based on three steps to curb stress/anxiety:
Shifting from imagining and living in the future to focusing on the present moment. This will help having a better understanding of the difficulties surrounding us and avoid constant anticipation that can ultimately trigger anxiety.
- What is the difficulty right NOW?
- What can be done in this situation right NOW?
Being fully conscious of what you are experiencing at the moment and avoiding living and functioning on autopilot mode. This will enable you to put your energy into the response mode to address the difficulties experienced rather than the reaction mode.
- What is the situation, problem, challenge, etc. right NOW?
- What are my thoughts, emotions, sensations right NOW?
- What are they telling me right NOW?
Being receptive and open to what is really happening around you. Acknowledging the situation for what it really is and not what it could be changes the way we experience things.
- What would be different if I accepted the situation as it is?
- What can I change/contribute from where I am standing?
- What would help me to be at my best during this situation?
- What benefits can there be in working with what is happening?
- What are the possible costs and how can I mitigate them at the best of my ability and with my current resources?
Mr. Kafoury resumed the session by sharing some mindfulness practices that can be used when facing stressful situations including the pandemic:
- Enjoy the micro moments
- Keep a journal
- Practice gratitude
Vincent Letourneau Associate Director, Medical Affairs, Immunology, AbbVie
Mr. Letourneau lead a discussion around the learnings and best practices gathered during the COVID situation and how we can prepare ourselves for a potential second wave. Mr. Letourneau highlighted the fact that we will still be navigating through a changing and uncertain environment for some time. The only certainty we have at the moment, is that things will not go back exactly to how they were. The pharmaceutical industry needs to adapt to this new environment and build a detailed plan for employees returning back to the office.
What proportion of remote capabilities will remain?
- Virtual advisory boards will probably be part of our reality after the COVID situation. They have shown to be very effective and it helps avoid travelling as it can be sometimes difficult to bring together all the participants in one location. However, it’s important to note that virtual meetings cannot totally replace face to face exchange.
- The COVID situation has created a unique and challenging environment for the pharmaceutical industry leaders. Leaders have to rethink the organization’s vision in terms of operation and management and find effective ways to communicate and implement these changes during uncertain times.
- Working remotely might bring many positive aspects but it also creates isolation and this factor needs to be considered going forward if employees will be working more and more from home. Employers need to recognise the importance of physical interactions and create opportunities for colleagues to be able to interact in a safe way.
- Remote capabilities will probably stay until we have a clearer understanding of the potential second wave.
- HCPs were not ready to interact virtually at the beginning of the pandemic but now they are becoming more and more familiar with all the different platforms that the pharmaceutical industry is using. These types of interactions will probably stay once the pandemic is over as they allow more flexibility and more opportunities to connect. However, we will probably start integrating more and more physical meetings once possible and maintain a mix of both virtual and face to face meetings.
How to make the best of virtual congresses?
- Virtual congresses allow for potentially a bigger audience as more people from around the world can attend the virtual sessions from their own home without having to travel and change their regular plans. Also, participants are able to attend more sessions of interest where it was not necessarily feasible in live events due to schedule conflicts.
- HCPs were really receptive to virtual congresses and very collaborative. Most participants have enjoyed the process and found that it allowed for more interactions with different people through different channels.
How best to retain customer engagement?
- The pharmaceutical industry needs to be creative to make HCPs want to participate in future programs.
- HCPs emphasize now more than ever the importance for the pharma industry to build programs that are relevant and that bring real value to clinicians.
How best to get back in the field?
- HCPs willingness to reengage with the pharmaceutical industry is variable by province but also between different therapeutic areas.
- The COVID situation is still evolving and the future remains uncertain at this time. Some HCPs are ready to start interacting with the pharmaceutical industry while others are still not there. It’s important to note that it’s very heterogenous at the moment.
What positive and negative aspects are associated with COVID?
- The positive thing about virtual meetings and programs is that sometimes people are more vocal through chat as they feel more comfortable to express their opinions than in real live events.
- Virtual meetings lead to mental exhaustion and digital fatigue.
Freelance Medical Writer