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Meet Hayley Harlock, our first Medical #GameChanger during COVID 19. Check out our interview below with this remarkable leader.

Hayley Harlock is the Founder of The Flipside Life (TFSL), an initiative she established in 2019 dedicated to supporting physician families. Hayley holds a Master of Social Work degree from Wilfrid Laurier University. She previously practiced as a medical social worker at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. She is a mother of three children, and wife to a busy vascular surgeon. For the past decade, Hayley has been a SAHM, acting as CEO and family chauffer, while supporting her husband’s medical training and his eventual transition into practice.

The journey of a medical spouse can be long, isolating and unpredictable at times. The mission of TFSL is to create connection, and to foster a diverse and inclusive community among the partners of medical students, residents and staff physicians. Hayley believes in the power of meaningful connection. She also believes that when physician families are supported and thriving, the mental health and wellbeing of doctors is strengthened.

Q1. Tell me more about The Flipside Life and what it does.

A: The Flipside Life (TFSL) is an organization founded in 2019, dedicated to supporting Physician Families by connecting the spouses/partners of physicians and trainees. I have been with my vascular surgeon husband for the entirety of his medical training, and transition into practice almost a decade ago. Over the years, I have witnessed many physician families struggle (ours included at times), many of us are surviving but not thriving. While medical schools and hospital organizations are starting to recognize the importance of physician health and well being, in my humble opinion, the one crucial aspect often left out of the conversation is family life. It is my intention to change this. I believe that when physician families are thriving and supported, the mental health and well being of physicians is enhanced. Making the delivery of quality, compassionate care both possible and sustainable. Something I believe we should all care about as communities, and as healthcare consumers.

Q2. Why is your organization so important in this COVID 19 environment?

A: In recent weeks, COVID-19 has unleashed chaos and uncertainty everywhere. This global pandemic has transcended gender, age, race, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status…no one is immune to the devastation. The mental health implications of COVID-19 on healthcare providers and their families will prove to be unprecedented.  Preliminary research from areas around the world hardest hit by the pandemic have already concluded that frontline healthcare workers are experiencing symptoms of psychological distress, which impacts their loved ones as well. There’s also been a lot of discussion related to the ‘unclam’ before the storm. Many frontline healthcare workers (and their families) continue to deal with anticipatory anxiety related to ‘waiting’ for something to happen.

In an attempt to help connect and support Physician Families, for the past six weeks, TFSL has been facilitating weekly confidential peer support calls for all spouses/partners of physicians and trainees. All are welcome. It has been an honor to create a safe space for our community to come together to support one another. These calls will continue weekly until they are no longer needed. The calls have been attended by individuals throughout Ontario, New York, Texas, California, Montana, and even as far as New Zealand. The number of attendees and geographical reach has expanded weekly. The message is clear, physician families continue to experience unique challenges and stressors, many feel isolated in their experiences, and many require better support. As the spouses and partners of physicians, we are the ones holding things together behind the scenes, for the people holding things together on the front lines. It’s crucial for physician families to be adequately supported during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Q3. How have you changed the game and disrupted the industry with your services?

A: Despite TFSL being very much in its infancy, I would like to believe that the initiative has at the very least started a valuable and long overdue conversation, regarding the importance of physician families (and their mental health) being better supported. It’s my intention to seek out opportunities for TFSL to create impact on a more global scale by collaborating with medical schools, hospital organizations, and other professional associations that represent physician groups.

Q4. What was the greatest obstacle that you have encountered in your business and how have you overcome it?

A: Two things come to mind. One challenge encountered has been the need to foster an ongoing belief in myself, and in my ability to figure out a way to take TFSL from an idea, and turn it into an impactful movement that has the potential to serve and support many physician families. It’s involved a lot of ongoing personal development and learning. Asking questions. Seeking guidance. And learning how to put my ego aside and being ok with making mistakes and not being good at everything on the first try.

The second challenge has simply been in raising awareness that TFSL exists. Slowly but surely our community has grown through word of mouth. TFSL recently received local and national media coverage which has been huge in helping to get the message out. We are just getting started, and I could not be more excited to see where this journey will take us as a community of physician families.

Thank you so much Hayley for your work and your contribution to the medical community.

Do you know a medical professional that you would like to be recognized during this time? We would love to feature them! Let us know at Marcie@canadianequality.ca.