By Suneth Jayasekara – Emergency Physician
What is intellectual wellness?
The term “Intellectual wellness” recognises the contribution that being intellectually stimulated makes towards an individual’s state of wellbeing. As human beings, our intellect is our biggest strength. It is in our nature to enjoy intellectual stimulation, and is part of the reason for the success of the human race. Using our intellectual skills to make a positive contribution, gives us a sense of meaning and purpose to our existence. As highlighted in the trainee perspective by Dr Anna Davenport these intellectual skills can take many different forms.
So what then does it mean to be intellectually “well”?
Intellectual wellness has several components, including
- Curiosity – curiosity is a strong motivator, and drives and enhances learning1,2
- Creativity – Different people will express their sense of creativity in different ways
- Lifelong learning – a commitment to lifelong learning keeps us engaged, curious and well
- Collaboration – Sharing the experience with others in the form of a community of practice makes the learning experience richer and more effective2
Fostering a growth mindset
As Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck outlines in her TED talk3, people who employ a growth mindset, have a higher chance of success.
Fulfilling our potential – self-actualisation
Maslow’s expanded hierarchy of needs describes the needs that motivate human actions. Once the basic needs (physiological, safety, love/belonging and esteem) are met, humans are driven by higher order needs such as self-actualisation and transendence. Self-actualisation is the desire an individual has to be the best that they can be. A self-actualised person is more creative, motivated by finding their meaning and purpose, and is driven to fulfil their individual potential.
Professor Simon Carley from St Emlyns explains these concepts well in his blogpost here
Intellectual wellness in practice – for healthcare workers
I believe that maintaining currency of clinical knowledge and skills is paramount for the wellness of any passionate clinician. The recognition or perception that you are out-of-date can be a threat to individual wellness. There is also the obvious undesirable effect of providing substandard care to patients. The challenge therefore is balancing the time commitment required to maintain currency and excellence, with the other demands upon our time, which are also vital to our wellness. The exponential growth of the knowledge base is intimidating, and it can be tempting to dismiss keeping up to date as an insurmountable challenge. The solution may lie in using our time more efficiently and effectively.
Using technology to work smarter
Parallel to the growth in the volume of knowledge, is the growth of technology. Technology can help us become more efficient in our approach to dealing with this vast amount of knowledge. Technology can be used in several ways – for example,
- A filter – Social media resources such as twitter, and #FOAMed resources such as blogs and podcasts can act as a filter to deliver the information that is most useful to us. Tools such as blog aggregators (e.g Feedly) and podcasting apps can serve to deliver this filtered material in manner that is easy to access
- Improved accessibility – Smartphones, tablets and laptops help us to access the information so that the drive to work, train journey, or airline flight can be used productively. “Read by QXMD” and “Pocket” are examples of apps that help improve access to material on the go.
- Help with organisation – productivity apps such as Evernote, calendar apps, Workflowy/Todoist are extremely useful to get things done as efficiently as possible.
*The author has no financial conflicts of interest to declare with any of the mentioned products
Collaboration/ community of practice
As mentioned earlier, collaborating with colleagues is a very valuable part of an individual’s learning. Learning is a social activity2, and discussion/ debate/ elaboration of the topic with colleagues maintains curiosity and interest as well as reinforcing learning2.
Collaboration can take many forms. More traditional methods that are commonly used include journal clubs, study groups, and morbidity & mortality meetings. However, more recently this collaboration of people with similar interests has also been occuring in the online arena – via media such as commenting on blogs, online journal clubs or case based discussions. Examples include Academic Life in Emergency Medicine’s MEdIC series or the Simulcast Journal Club. Many have “closed” groups using online tools such as ‘slack’, that are specifically designed for the collaboration of teams. The main benefit of collaborating online is that it is not limited by geography – allowing an infinitely large and diverse group of people to be involved. In addition, it facilitates asynchronous engagement – where people can participate at a time and place that is convenient to them. It also improves accessibility to those people who live in rural or remote areas, and keeps them engaged in the conversation.
Organisations have a responsibility to promote lifelong learning, by supporting and providing avenues for collaborative learning. Ensuring access to professional development leave and clinical support time, and affirmation or professional development activities are essential.
Being intellectually stimulated and challenged throughout our lives is critical for our wellness as human beings. We should endeavour to maintain curiosity, be creative, commit to a lifetime of learning and collaborate with others throughout our career and beyond. It might just make your life more fulfilling!
For lots of great additional resources – click – Intellectual spoke e-learning
- Dyche L, Epstein RM. Curiosity and medical education. Med Educ. 2011 Jul;45(7):663-8.
- David C. M. Taylor & Hossam Hamdy (2013) Adult learning theories : Implications for learning and teaching in medical education: AMEE Guide No. 83, Medical Teacher, 35:11, e1561-e1572
- Ted talk by Carol Dweck – “ The power of believing that you can improve”