Updated: Apr 14, 2020
This article was a tough one for us to write as front line staff, but deep down, we both knew that it was important to write about it. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic there was an increasing awareness that health care staff were suffering from burnout. Staffing shortages were a big issue and they remain an issue nationwide. Yet every day is another day.
Self-care has always been important, and it has many different names and forms. Some refer to it as mindfulness, others refer to it as reflection and introspection. The truth is there has never been a more important time to practice self-care than now.
You often hear the line: you went into medicine to help sick people, you signed up for this, this is a vocation, it doesn’t have a finish time. The issue is self-care is not a swear word and it certainly is not a code word for selfishness.
Self-care should rather be seen as a physician’s willingness to accept they are human and have limitations, which include mental and physical fatigue. The purpose of self-care when practiced correctly is to: help a physician continue to find joy in their work, enable them to be a functional member of the team and finally to help them cope with the pressures of a stressful work environment. Self-care is not only beneficial to the individual but also to the other members of the team.
We don’t really want to list all the ways to self-care because to be honest that journey is personal to you. One personal example is that I recently purchased tropical fish and it has been quite a relaxing exercise. After a long day at work, I often find myself sitting in front of the fish tank for up to thirty minutes. There is something strangely therapeutic about watching my tropical fish swim back and forth.
Self-care does not equate to tropical fish, but as a healthcare professional you need a hobby, you need unwind time, rest time, downtime, call it whatever you want. The essence of what we are trying to say is that you need a mental break after work, something that allows you to de-stress and gives you peace.
Meanwhile, there has been has lots of work in hospital settings on acts of kindness. The common aim of these schemes is to boost the morale of staff members and make them feel valued.An example many of you will be able to resonate with, are the ward rounds which end in the Consultant /Team leader summoning everyone to an official tea break. It sounds counter intuitive that health care professionals are drinking tea when they should be busy. However this time is valuable consolidation time, we often used it to catch up on progress with jobs, reallocate team members to help those who were struggling. Most importantly, it was a small portion of the day, where as a worker you felt valued and listened to and it made a huge difference. So the time used is actually gained later in productivity.
In conclusion, we have one request during this pandemic, many retailers have shown their solidarity to us by opening shops earlier and the general public have shown their appreciation through the Clap campaign.
The question is what do we have to offer each other?
A smile, a simple act of kindness, a display of empathy, checking in on each other by doing a double tap how are you?
The gesture does not have to be big; a small gesture goes a long way.
As always we are here to answer any questions and we are also open to blog topic requests.
Best wishes and good luck in spreading kindness!