A Word of Encouragement, a Message of Hope From Residents to Residents
Ciera K. Ward, M.D.
My Fellow COVID-19 Soldiers,
Never before have we encountered a war such as this, and I pray we may never have to again. With global impacts, an invisible enemy, and an uncertain future ahead, it can almost seem impossible to keep our chins up. Anesthesiology is known for being the specialty of ingenuity, advocating for patient safety, and being the epitome of calm in the midst of the storm. But this storm is unprecedented. How do we deal with the happenings of today? How do we cope with the fears of tomorrow? The answer: together, and one day at a time.
While you are in the trenches, you are not alone. Your fellow soldiers-in-arms all across the nation are facing the same battle that this virus is waging against both patients and healthcare providers. On top of taking care of very sick patients, residents also face the added challenges of new family and social dynamics, while simultaneously trying to avoid the derailing of our academic and career goals.
In this time of change, adapting, coping, and providing healthcare to the sick and dying, we encourage you to not neglect yourself. It is vital that you set aside time each day for self-care.
The seven areas of personal wellness are outlined below and include some dos and don’ts as well as a few strategies for staying healthy during this difficult time. The lists are brief in nature and can be expanded and tailored to your personal interests.
The ASA Committee on Physician Well Being has assembled resources to help us cope with the struggles associated with this pandemic which can be found here. I hope the combination of this article and those resources will help you in this trying time.
● Do: Find healthy outlets for emotions whether that be through home workouts, meditation, journaling, art, talking with others, etc.
● Don’t: Don’t suppress or bottle up emotions nor use unhealthy outlets for coping.
● Strategies: Take 5 minutes to jot down effective ways you can process and release your emotions. Find time each week to enjoy a hobby or two. Reach out for help if you are struggling emotionally.
● Do: Stay on budget but try to treat you and your family when possible. Consider donating to your favorite charity or supporting local businesses.
● Don’t: Don’t blow the budget by making unnecessary purchases or impulse online shopping.
● Strategies: Remember your long-term financial goals before this crisis. Be open to adjusting your financial resources as needed to make it through.
● Do: View every day as a learning opportunity. Focus on areas that directly impact this pandemic: ventilator modes, POCUS and other imaging, triaging, team management, etc.
● Don’t: Don’t get caught up in the hustle and bustle that you forget to put to memory the things you have learned.
● Strategies: Keep reading. Ask your colleagues what they are learning and how they learned it. What you learn today may save a life tomorrow.
● Do: Utilize the wellness resources in your program, institution, or through the ASA. Continue your career planning and outline your future goals.
● Don’t: Don’t turn a blind eye to the future. This crisis will pass and your residency training will be complete before you know it. Do not be discouraged by having virtual instead of interviews.
● Strategies: If you have not found a mentor, now is a good time. If you already have a mentor, continue reaching out to them for advice.
● Do: Make every effort to optimize your sleep, eating habits, and physical exercise daily. Wash your hands.
● Don’t: Don’t neglect rest and exercise.
● Strategies: Meal plan when able. Skip the elevator and take the stairs when possible. Listen to relaxing music before bed to fall asleep faster.
● Do: Practice social distancing. Show kindness at work and communicate effectively and often. Make time to converse with friends and family. Look for opportunities to improve someone else’s day.
● Don’t: Don’t isolate yourself from others or only focus on COVID-19 issues.
● Strategies: Use technology to keep in touch with those you care about.
● Do: Continue practicing your faith or religion, finding time to explore your purpose in what is transpiring around you. Take time to meditate and attempt to see the bigger picture.
● Don’t: Don’t put your spiritual health on the back burner. Don’t give up asking the big questions of life. Don’t hesitate to converse with others about their beliefs.
● Strategies: Set aside a time and place to accomplish your spiritual goals. Discuss your spiritual journey with others.
You may be feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed. Fear might be creeping in from all sides. Know that you are not alone. You are enough. Your role is vital, your service is appreciated, and your heroic efforts matter. We are in this together, and together we will win this fight.
ACEP Wellness Wheel (PDF)
ASA COVID related Well-Being Resources