Preventing Burnout and Building Resilience
Knowing that health care professionals face many demands—from long hours to the emotional strain of working with people experiencing pain and trauma—we recently asked Clinical Scholars teams and program co-directors how they nurture themselves to create personal well-being and stay fresh professionally.
We’re sharing their ideas to encourage all health care providers to take a minute to renew their own self-care commitments.
We heard a lot about how our fellows and directors take care of their bodies by exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. Building good habits is key, they said, and habits are established most effectively if you take small, satisfying steps.
Beyond the physical, they also take care of themselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. For some, that means starting the day with half an hour dedicated to journaling or a personal project or taking a real break at lunchtime to recharge. For others, it means using meditation to stay present and aware of their emotions.
Reading 10 pages a day for pleasure or engaging in creative “right brain” activities can help balance the work day. “My most recent hobby is creative writing,” said program co-director Claudia Fernandez. “I love writing because there’s no mess, I can write on a plane, I can share my hobby with my friends, it costs nothing, and it stretches my abilities.”
Getting out of the clinic and into nature came up as a strategy for nurturing, body, mind, heart, and spirit. “My self-care routine is spending time outside regardless of the weather,” said pediatrician Emily Hall, a Clinical Scholars fellow and member of a Montana team.
Time with others is also a vital element of self-care. “We are social beings and I believe deep, meaningful connections are essential to our well-being,” said program co-director Giselle Corbie-Smith. “Yet the world we live and work in often seems at odds with this fundamental part of our humanity.”
“I try to be intentional about connecting with those I care about at work and home in some way, such as making space in busy days for tea or coffee with a colleague, thinking about meeting structures that allow for exchange of ideas one-on-one or in small groups, or regular breakfasts with my middle school son,” Giselle said.
Big picture views
Some program fellows also noted how important it is to think big picture about their health care systems and to infuse self-care into their workplaces.
“In our work with veterans with mental health issues, substance abuse, and PTSD, we know self-care will need to become an integral component of our organization,” said physical therapist and fellow Jeremy Fletcher, whose team is in Alabama. “Our team is currently discussing our personal values and how we see these integrating into the organization. For example, we begin every team meeting with a time to express our current challenging emotions and conclude each meeting with a prayer or meditation.”
A big picture perspective can also help reframe challenges for both patient and provider. “I do not carry my patients’ pain for them, because I see them as strong, inherently whole, and ultimately very powerful women,” said social worker Samara Grossman, a Clinical Scholars fellow and member of a Massachusetts team. “If they do not yet see themselves this way, I see it as my job to gently and patiently be their guide to that realization.”
We would love to hear your thoughts. Do you see yourself in these reflections? Are there other things you do to nurture yourself?
Please share your thoughts with us by email or on Twitter, where we invite you to tag @CSPfellows and #selfcare4providers.