This year there has been an explosion of interest in maintaining the wellness of ourselves and our colleagues in Emergency Medicine. That interest is long overdue. As many have identified, wellness is the result of many influences including individual actions, organisational issues and collegiate support. For what it is worth, here is what I do to stay well. It hasn’t always worked but I’ve been able to keep doing this job since 1988, so…
When you aren’t working:
- Get some nature every day. We evolved in the forest, not the ED. As many days of the week as you can walk (or run or cycle) where you can see the sky, smell the grass, feel the breeze and hear the birds. With no medical podcasts while you do it. Make it a meditation. An hour is long enough to refresh your soul.
- Exercise regularly. See above.
- Get some downtime daily where you are not thinking of work. See above.
- Spend some time with happy people. It doesn’t matter whether they are adults or children, friends family or strangers. In our job it sometimes feels that everyone we meet has a problem they want us to solve. Balance that up.
- Plan holidays. Not just conferences, but actual breaks from work. Always plan two ahead, so when you come back from one there is already another to look forward to.
When you are working:
- Realise that every one of your colleagues (medical, nursing, paramedic, admin) is stressed by the ED environment, if they have a soul. And they all do.
- Recognise that the people in the cotton gowns lying on the beds are the people with the most to be stressed about. You are one of the lucky ones in the room.
- Accept your own limitations. No-one can fix everything, even though that is what is expected of you. Failing to hit an impossible mark is not failure.
- Mentor sideways. A lot of senior docs are expected (rightly) to mentor juniors but we need mentoring too. I don’t think we can expect our juniors to do it. So look around your consultant colleagues for signs of distress and offer your support and your insight. Even when they are not asking for it. Especially then.
- Speak your admiration for the work of others. All of us are in this ED business together and many are doing outstanding jobs. Tell them. They may return the favour.
Finally and personally, I can share my three part strategy which I developed when I hit the wall ten years ago:
First, go part time. Having more days off than days at work in a week is a huge psychological boost.
Second, change hospitals. Work somewhere with more support and less blame.
Third, change careers.
I haven’t got to the third yet.