Was this your initial reaction when you first heard the term "wellness"?
It definitely was mine. And probably a large proportion of my colleagues.
See I'm the daughter of a tough Greek man. Spartan actually. And I also happen to be a young Emergency Medicine attending. People like me, and most of you out there reading this are taught to suck-it-up and push through things. How else would we have made it through medical school, the multiple USMLE tests, Emergency Medicine "audition rotations", "THE MATCH", and finally residency?
But the problem with this "Superman" mentality is that it's not sustainable. Not for the average physician who plans on living a happy life inside and outside of medicine.
I used to think that if I can just make it through medical school and get into residency I will be fine. And then I got into the exact residency that I wanted and I thought "okay, if I can just get through residency then I will be happy and life will be okay".
This thinking is clearly flawed. Because once residency come and goes after three to four grueling years of literally blood, sweat and tears you graduate. And then your career actually begins.
Learning about wellness and discussing topics such as physician burnout, sleep management, financial planning, and breathing exercises might seem like secondary to learning about Neonatal Resuscitation, the different doses and uses for TPA and sepsis vs SOFA but actually it might be more important.
Yup, I said it. More important. Because what's the point of learning all this medical literature if we burn out, switch careers, hate going into work every day or even tragedly commit suicide?
Seems dramatic, but its true. And for those of you out there who are still skeptical I hope that our Wellness and Resilience Program at SIUH will help soften you, and in the process paradoxically make you a stronger, and more resilient physician.
Wait, WHAT? Hold on a second.
What in the world is this "resilience" thing??
"The ability to bounce back in the face of a stressor or chronic stress; the ability to thrive in the face of hardship and change"
In order to succeed as emergency physicians and live a long and happy career, we have to learn concepts and practice exercises that will make stress and problems roll off our shoulders instead of annoy us or frustrate us. It's not always easy to do in the fast-paced high-stress nature of our jobs. But it's possible.
Picture this. You are working a 7a-7p Sunday shift in the main ER. It's 1pm and know you're realizing you just picked up one too many patients. The troponin on your 66 year old diabetic diaphoretic man with chest pain has been processing for over 2 hours. The medicine resident refuses to take your admission until the urinalysis is back on your elderly lady who clearly has a simple pneumonia and is already getting appropriate antibiotics anyway. Your electronic documenting system keeps freezing and now you have to restart your computer for the third time. All while you keep getting phone calls from your consultants who are asking one million questions and that annoying family member is standing over you asking "is the CT report back yet? We've been here forever" after the patient literally just returned from the CT scanner.
How do you respond? How do you react? What is going through your mind? For most people they don't just roll their eyes, laugh and finish the shift gracefully.
Resiliency is a relatively new concept in our field. But it's real and it's a skill that can be taught and we hope to teach you through our Wellness and Resilience Program.
I hope you enjoyed this introduction to our Wellness and Resilience Program at SIUH. We will be giving lectures at our conferences throughout the year, posting and distributing blog-style articles written by colleagues and most importantly having open discussions about these emergency medicine topics.
Stay tuned. More to come!
Frosso Adamakos, MD
Emergency Medicine Attending Physician
SIUH Wellness and Resiliency Curriculum Director