I have been combatting aura sickness migraines since childhood. Unfortunately, medication has not been an effective method of prevention or treatment. The migraines were most often induced by high stress levels and caused me to miss classes and exams. With the encouragement of friends and family, I switched to a lifestyle medicine preventative approach. I included appropriate servings of fruits, vegetables, and dairy in my diet while on meal plan at my university. In addition to incorporating thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise 4–5 times a week, I maintained a regular sleep schedule of 7–8 hours a day. While this approach has not eliminated migraines completely, it has reduced the frequency to once every two months, if not longer. Additionally, I have turned to artwork as a form of catharsis. I infuse bright colors into my work to mirror the outlook I want to maintain. As a future physician, self-care is also important and I try to evenly balance academics, work, and personal life.
I believe these approaches can help with the stress of a career in emergency medicine. Maintaining a healthy mental state is important, and I have seen the effects of taking a few minutes a day to devote to personal mental health. Additionally, surrounding myself with supporting friends and family has also increased my drive to achieve my goals. It is not a sign of weakness to rely on one’s peers, but a recognition of the fact that success is hardly ever achieved alone. As a physician it is important to share emotions with one’s peers to avoid becoming weighed down. In addition to the team ensuring the physician’s mental status, it takes a team to ensure a patient’s well-being. Being appreciative of each member’s contribution creates the safest environment for the patient and healthcare providers. There will always be other healthcare providers who have the patient’s best interests in mind to provide physical and mental support in all situations and while performing Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS).
While being a physician requires a significant investment into the patient’s well-being, it is important to detach oneself from the patient’s situation at the end of the day. There will be patients I cannot save despite fervent effort to deliver ACLS, patients who are unresponsive to treatments, and patients I could not get to in time. Tragedies occur every day but to continue functioning, a physician cannot become weighed down by the events of yesterday. There are many other lives to save and the physician has to keep a sharp mind to continue treating others. Showing compassion towards the patient is important, but maintaining personal health for the sake of others is just as valuable.
Just as mental health goes a long way, physical health is equally significant. Patients often look up to their physicians and may be influenced to lead healthy lives if their physician is doing the same. Exercise has a variety of benefits and can help maintain energy and productivity throughout the day. In addition to remaining fit, exercise can prepare me for performing life saving techniques such as ACLS that involve the use of my body. The fast pace of emergency medicine requires physical fitness to keep up with patient needs without tiring early on. Exercise has helped me combat stress levels in the past but it will also prove useful when faced with the physical demands of being a physician.
Being a medical student requires hours of intensive studying and patient interactions. In addition to balancing school work, I also need to allocate time towards maintaining relationships and personal health. I have been implementing stress management techniques throughout my undergraduate career and I am ready to apply them to my future. Physician burnout is becoming more and more prevalent as doctors see higher volumes of patients and face hectic schedules. Devoting just half an hour a day towards a stress relieving activity, from indulging in a hobby or talking to friends, can create a positive outlook on one’s career and life. Oftentimes it is hard to separate work life from personal life, but to avoid carrying hospital burdens into the home, it is important to make an effort. Emergency medicine has demanding hours, so during the time I am not in the hospital, I can relax and recuperate to perform once again. A physician is a servant leader, and to best serve the community, I need to take care of myself first. Lastly, passion is required to be successful in this field. Becoming a physician entails investing time and money into a career that puts others first. Without true passion and commitment, burnout is definite despite efforts to maintain personal health. Passion is the fuel that propels me along the path to a successful career in medicine.