How Allison Schroeder, MD Supports Wellness

Submitted by Allison Schroeder, MD, Administrative Chief Resident, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Editor of the AAP's Words of Wellness

Our goal with these words of wellness are to not only provide useful advice to physiatrists, but also to encourage self-reflection and mindfulness, and foster the sense of calling, meaning and perception of rewarding work that led all of us to choose to practice in physiatry. I hope that you can reflect on this quote and how you strive to overcome obstacles in your own life. Focusing on the end goal and seeing the big picture helps me to maintain wellness in my own life.

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal. - Henry Ford

As a high school track and field athlete, my best event was the 300m hurdles. My dad was always supportive, encouraged me to be the best I could be, and would provide me with a plethora of motivational quotes. The quote listed above was often among these. When I was running, he would frequently remind me to focus on the end goal of finishing the hurdle race and to not think about the obstacles/barrier over which I had to jump. Now, as a physician, this quote not only holds true in my life as a doctor, but also is true for my patients who are recovering from injury. I often find that it is important to keep the “big picture” and final goal in mind; to reflect on why I went into medicine: to treat others with respect and help them through the most difficult times in their lives. It is when I lose sight of this goal that I become frustrated with “obstacles,” such as slow EMR, insurance companies, and other red-tape, and I find it helpful to reflect and always remember the end goal. Additionally, helping patients to focus on the end goal in their treatment plan is also helpful. It is easy to make excuse as to why one can’t find time to complete a rehab program, for example, but continuing to encourage patients to focus on the end goal rather than the difficult obstacles in between is helpful. To help maintain wellness and avoid frustration, it is helpful focus on the end goal and see the big picture, always reflection on why that is the ultimate goal, no matter how big or small this is.

How John Whyte, MD, PhD Supports Wellness

Submitted by John Whyte, MD, PhD, Institute Scientist Emeritus, Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute

I haven’t had a highly conscious "wellness plan" during my years of training and subsequent research career, but I was already with my partner Tom when I started medical school and was never willing to live in the library even then. I tried to make my work and studying as productive as possible during working hours but kept time for my share of the shopping, cooking and household chores. I also stayed connected to my cultural interests and political activism, so that I always had more friends outside of medicine than within, which helped me keep some perspective on what was important. From early on we prioritized living a car-less life where we could commute on foot and bike. That avoided hours in the car and helped maintain fitness, though I’ve also been a regular gym goer since medical school (these days I get up at 5:00am and hit the gym before going to work).

I’m lucky to never have experienced serious “burnout”. One reason may not be easy for everyone to replicate. I have developed a career that feels meaningful to me and that is substantially under my own control. I am able to select questions and problems that I see as important, rather than work that is assigned to me. Although I certainly don’t get every grant I apply for, I have been sufficiently successful that even the grant-writing process, while crazy-making in the moment, is rewarded sufficiently often to keep me going. Another factor is colleagues. I have been fortunate to work with a network of colleagues at home and around the world, that I find both stimulating and humane (I left my first job when that was no longer true). As the director of a research program, I have tried to create a culture of mutual support and collaboration rather than one of “me first” personal achievement. To distill all that: mental stimulation and good people!

How Atrium Health Supports Wellness

Submitted by Administrative Chief Resident Ana Michunovich, DO, Academic Chief Resident Jordan Sestak, MD, QI Chief Resident James Kult, MD and Well-Being Curriculum Faculty Advisor Judi Campbell, MD

Studies have shown that physiatrists suffer from high levels of emotional exhaustion and work-life imbalance when compared to other highly educated individuals working similar hours. But how do we create a more supportive culture in a challenging and ever-changing healthcare environment? This academic year we created a new residency curriculum entitled Physician Resilience. The teachings center on nurturing personal and group strengths, creating a unified annual residency vision statement, connecting to purpose, and engaging in modifiable dimensions of well-being including physical fitness with weekly resident and faculty-led 7-minute workout sessions. Comments from faculty and residents regarding the curriculum have included statements such as “I look forward to participating in the 7-minute workouts with the team, I feel mentally and physically recharged afterwards”, “I think that the workouts help to foster wellness in multiple ways. The first is obvious; we as "white collar" workers tend to be sedentary during work hours so a few minutes of flexibility, balance, cardio/strength exercises, and meditation help to reinvigorate the body and the mind. The second is the benefit of socialization, which is afforded in the group setting. It is motivational and builds a sense of team spirit”, “I enjoy that our department promotes active ways to empower all healthcare professionals through wellness”, and “I was going through a hard time and the strengths assessment came at the perfect moment, making me realize that I am unique, I matter, and that even as a new resident I can make a difference”.

As Arthur Ashe said, “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can”. We hope that you join us by committing to fostering a culture of nurture and excellence, so that we can all shape individuals who are skilled not just in the art of living, but of thriving.