Dear Healthcare Professional: Take care of you!
It starts off with you forgetting to pack a lunch. You let it slip and convince yourself you wouldn’t have time to eat it anyways. Then you start to skip breakfast altogether because you just don’t have enough time in the morning – between showering, getting dressed, and putting your makeup on, how could you possibly squeeze in time for breakfast? You have watched every possible five-minute makeup tutorial on YouTube, and you even get your clothes ready the night before… but you still don’t have time for you.
You eventually convince yourself that this is just the way it is now; besides, you figure you can always just grab a quick snack at work. You don’t sweat it until you start feeling more and more tired. You eventually squeeze some time into your schedule to get some blood work done. Your blood work shows you are extremely iron deficient, so you need to incorporate more iron into your diet. You hear this news and immediately tell yourself that you will eat healthier. You stay on track for a solid week before falling back into your previously lackluster routine of self-care. Then, you convince yourself that there is nothing wrong with you at all – your patients are number one and seeing them do well is what will make you the happiest.
When you work in health care, it is very easy to slip into a pattern of slowly caring less and less about yourself. Although we know how important it is to block out some “me time”, we don’t often follow through because our lives become so consumed with taking care of others, and our own self-care ends up taking a back seat.
How many times have we advised patients to take it easy, eat healthier, or aim to have a good night’s sleep? I’m sure all of us have… but perhaps we are the ones who need to hear that advice more than anyone else.
As we excel in our careers and take on more, we might become the world’s best doctor or best pharmacist or best nurse or best whatever, but we also end up becoming the world’s worst patient. We start skipping breakfast in order to make it to work on time for an appointment we have with a patient. We might not have a decent lunch because we promised to teach our patient how to use their brand new blood glucose machine. We go home, and then when it comes time for bed, our brain is constantly thinking of how our day went. We push ourselves so much because we care about our patients and because we want to do the best we can to serve others; however, we don’t realize that we are slowly failing miserably at taking care of ourselves.
We suddenly start feeling ill, and that becomes our wake-up call, forcing us to realize that we have to begin taking better care of ourselves. We frantically start looking for books or an evidence-based guide of some sort that could give us some quick tips because we think we don’t have time to start worrying about ourselves – we need to feel better quickly so we can provide excellent patient care. But this is how we slowly find ourselves falling into the same vicious cycle again.
If you ask me, there is no guide or book that can tell you how to take care of yourself. You have to be your own guide because at the end of the day, you know yourself better than anyone else. You are the first and only person that will know what brings a smile to your face, what brings you comfort after a long day, and what nourishes your body while satisfying your taste buds.
I have to admit, I am one of those people that was hoping for a quick and easy fix. I ended up falling into a vicious cycle where I just couldn’t find a happy medium between serving my patients to the best of my ability while providing better care for myself.
I ended up making myself a list of all the activities that promote comfort and give me the personal space that I need. After that, I started to make myself a schedule that incorporates these self-care activities into my day. One of my biggest issues has been making the time to make breakfast in the morning, so I started making my breakfast at night so that it’s ready for me to eat the following morning. I also started going to the gym more regularly, making face masks, delving into crocheting, and doing yoga.
As healthcare professionals, we must recognize that we cannot pour from an empty cup. Excellent patient care starts with caring for ourselves. It is easier said than done. Being the compassionate, hardworking people that we tend to be, it is easy for self-care to take a backseat in our lives. Even when we become consumed with taking care of patients, our own families, friends, and everyone else very near and dear to our hearts, we must always take care of ourselves.
From a fellow pharmacist to all my peers in health care: please don’t skip breakfast. Give yourself personal space. Golf. Swim. Jog. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself healthy. Because, ultimately, taking care of others starts with taking care of you.
As SGI likes to put it, take care out there!