Physicians are overworked and hospitals understaffed. We often work 24+ hour days and have little time to take care of ourselves. This article will explore barriers to physician self care and help physicians develop self-care practices for their physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual health.
Doctors are super-skilled at caring for everyone but themselves. We save lives, deal with crises, perform surgeries, hold space for people in the worst times of their lives. We teach, research, administrate, and operate. We also work in understaffed, under-resourced, and high-expectation high-litigation systems.
Therefore, it’s not surprising therefore that physicians experience higher rates of burnout, depression, and anxiety, and suicide, than the general population. Yet 6 out of 10 physicians are burned out, over 300 doctors die by suicide a year, and only around half of us who need help reach out for it. The 2021 MedScape Physicians Survey suggested only a third would reach out for help – we have written about why doctors don’t seek help here.
There is a reason why we have to affix our own oxygen mask before helping others; or ensure safety before beginning the ABCs of CPR.
Self-care is an important part of being a physician. It is not only about physical care, but also mental and emotional care. Self-care is often overlooked in the healthcare profession, but it is just as important as any other aspect of our health. The more we take care of ourselves, the more we can provide quality care to others.
Moreover, self-care is not just in order to better serve our patients. It also because as human beings who happen to be doctors, we deserve a lifestyle optimized for thriving rather than surviving. Some writers have gone so far as to say “put yourself first“.
The goal of self-care should, we think, be:
(1) to build up our reserves against the stressors of modern medicine, and recognize when we need help and
(2) find ways that we can get that help before it becomes a bigger problem.
There are a number of reasons why physicians may be reluctant to prioritize self care. Here are a few common ones:
Some ways to invest in your own wellbeing as a physician may involve taking steps such as setting boundaries, finding ways to manage stress, and making time for self-care activities such as exercise, relaxation, and hobbies. It is also important for physicians to maintain a good work-life balance and to seek support from colleagues, friends, and loved ones when needed.
Here are a few ways that physicians can overcome barriers to self care:
Physicians, investing in your own well-being is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it allows you to provide the best possible care to your patients. When you are feeling rested, healthy, and balanced, you are better able to focus on your work and make sound decisions.
Additionally, taking care of yourself can help to prevent burnout, which is a common problem among healthcare professionals. Burnout can lead to a decline in job satisfaction and an increase in medical errors, so it is important to take steps to prevent it.
Overall, there are many reasons why physicians may be reluctant to prioritize self care. It is important for physicians to understand the importance of self care and to make it a priority in their lives. For their patients, colleagues, and loved ones — but mainly for themselves.