A few weeks ago, physician and nurse practitioner leaders across UHA met for a daylong seminar. In one of the ice breakers, facilitators instructed participants to walk around the room and identify two people. In the first exercise, person A was a fictional attacker and person B was the protector. Participants were instructed to keep the protector in between themselves and the attacker to remain safe. In the second exercise, person B was the victim, and the participant was the protector; the participant had to keep himself or herself between the attacker and the potential victim to keep person B safe. In the first exercise people were fairly well behaved and mild mannered, but in the second exercise I thought some people were going to be tackled! It was amazing to see, even in a game, how much more aggressively people protected others from harm compared to themselves.
This game was truly a real-time animation of the nature of health care professionals, who go to great lengths to care for others often while neglecting their own care. Learning to take care of ourselves is hard when years of training taught us to neglect ourselves, but let me remind you: this is not a zero sum game! We can take care both of ourselves and our patients and, in fact, are able to perform at a higher level (i.e. take BETTER care of patients) if we make healthy choices and give ourselves time to recharge.
That said, it is still sometimes difficult to find time for yourself; so, on the days where your only alone time is the commute, consider checking out this podcast: “The Science of Happiness”, brought to you by the great folks at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. It can also be found on Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Try practicing a few deep cleansing breaths at the beginning and end of your journey to minimize the tension in your body and maximize your ability to arrive fresh at your destination.
Rachel Roberts, MD
Medical Director, Provider Wellness
Medical Director, Collaborative Primary Care