Taking care to give care
First annual Celebrating Wellness week focuses on self-care for medical professionals
Feb. 18, 2019 — In a field rife with time pressures, competing interests and so much stress that burnout can seem inevitable, taking the time to care for one’s self can make a world of difference for the well-being of today’s health care practitioners.
It’s a tenuous reality that led Lisa Merlo Greene, Ph.D., director of wellness programs for the UF College of Medicine, to create the first annual Celebrating Wellness. From Feb. 11 through 17, a multitude of lectures and activities encouraged all UF College of Medicine students, faculty and staff to listen to their minds and bodies and create the change needed.
“These days, health care providers are expected to know more than ever before, to work effectively within interdisciplinary teams, to see more patients in less time, to complete huge amounts of bureaucratic paperwork and to maintain excellent customer service at all times. Similarly, those pursuing careers in science are competing for decreasing grant funding while being expected to make new discoveries and disseminate their findings in the most prestigious outlets,” Greene said. “Institutional wellness programming is a necessary first step for a culture of wellness that supports faculty, staff and trainees in their professional development and encourages them to function at their best.”
In addition to hands-on activities like yoga, meditation and visits from therapy dogs, Celebrating Wellness featured a daily lecture series, which kicked off Monday with a panel presentation on “Mental Health Resources for the UF College of Medicine Community.” Beth-Anne Blue, Ph.D., a psychologist for the UF Employee Assistance Program; Rob Averbuch, M.D., a psychiatrist at the UF Psychiatry — Springhill; Marcia Morris, M.D., a psychiatrist at the UF Counseling and Wellness Center; Alexis Polles, M.D., of Professionals Resource Network, Inc. and Beverly Vidauretta, Ph.D., a psychologist for the UF College of Medicine Office of Student Counseling and Development, each presented the counseling and wellness programs their offices offer to members of the UF College of Medicine community and the benefits contained within.
“The best caretakers are those that take care of themselves first,” Blue said.
Vidauretta stressed the importance of seeking help for wellness even before one’s medical training is complete.
On Tuesday, UF professor of psychology Ryan Duffy, Ph.D., presented a talk titled “Get Happier At Work: Give Gratitude,” in which he described giving and receiving gratitude as a “total win-win.”
“Giving gratitude forces your brain to focus on the positive and it acts as a social connector,” he said. “Receiving gratitude makes you think, I am important and I matter to others.”
On Wednesday, Jennifer Duff, M.D., assistant professor in the UF division of hematology and oncology, offered tips and tricks for email management during her presentation “Inbox Zero: Let’s Do This!” Her four-tiered system of “delete, delegate, do and defer” ensures one’s email inbox is free of clutter, which can reduce stress and increase productivity.
Carol Lewis, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor in the UF department of psychiatry, spoke Thursday on compassion, self-compassion and health during her talk “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” Through inviting her audience to close their eyes, breathe deeply and press their hands to their hearts, Lewis introduced several methods of achieving mindfulness, which utilizes thoughts, emotions, behaviors and body sensations to reach wellness.
“Learn to allow thoughts and then let go of them. Learn to manage thoughts and emotions, not control them. What we resist persists,” she said. “Mindfulness reduces rumination and stress, increases cognitive flexibility and boosts working memory. It may also decrease the risk of heart disease and reduce symptoms of chronic inflammatory conditions.”
On Friday, Victor Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of family, youth and community sciences, presented “9 Important Communication Skills in Your Significant Relationships at Home and Work.” Harris outlined both helpful and harmful communication tactics, as well as common impediments to change in relationships like a lack of education about healthy relationships, a lack of skills and a resistance to conscience.
“Seek closure and resolve the current issue as soon as possible,” he advised. “With social and emotional issues, it’s like a wound that gets infected if you don’t deal with it right away.”