You ever hear the saying “you can’t give from an empty cup?” I think it applies heavily to medicine- especially if you’re practicing in a public health facility.
Last week I got really interested in finding out what the ‘Staff Orders’ for doctors were… unfortunately after a week I’ve still been unable to access it.
First it was that I needed to speak with someone to make it accessible to me, only for that person to say it’s on the Ministry of Finance’s website.
If the website works for you please let me know and send me the link!
What got me searching for this, was so many times when I would ask for something to be done I would get the response: “I’m on my break” or “My break time is coming up”.
And I thought… everyone has a designated break time- except me. (to the best of my knowledge)
You could also argue, that as the doctor, I have more control over my time and when I can do this or that… HOWEVER, so many doctors- especially junior staff just work work work work, as soon as they arrive on the compound and only stop when they leave- often after their work day ends.
That’s not okay.
Maybe having more control puts us at an advantage, but it also makes us have to assume more responsibility and be more deliberate with taking time out to recharge and recoup.
Eventually, an engine that keeps going will give out.
Noticing this, I decided to always (try to) put myself first so that I am able to give without harming myself mentally and physically.
Here are some of my tips
Prioritise your patients
I try to see the most critical patients before hand so that if I need to take a break for a snack or a cup of tea I’ve only left patients who are doing well to be seen
Prepare from the night before
Picking out my clothing, packing my bag and my lunch the night before makes it easier to get ready in the morning. I means I can wake up later, not have to rush and I’m able to go to work refreshed and relaxed.
Make the time to eat. I don’t care what anyone says, there is always time.
Know when to stop.
Being post call is the absolute worst feeling in the world (maybe I’m exaggerating lol!) but we need to admit to ourselves when we’re too tired to do something and it just has to wait.
This helps us prevent accidents and improves quality of care.
Don’t be embarrassed about self care.
There is no shame in saying “I need to take some time” or “I’ll be with you in 15 minutes” just because you need to sit down and recharge.
I really wish we would stop giving of ourselves until only fumes are left. Everyone makes it seem as though it’s a rite of passage to work to the point that our mental health suffers.
It can be hard, I have to admit that, and each of us has to take small steps to figure out how we can maintain ourselves while providing quality care.
It is also the duty of senior staff and the organisation we work for to treat doctors as humans.
This is not only a Jamaican problem, it is known that being junior staff is one of the most difficult periods of medicine, and I’d love to change the narrative of “If I did it, you can too”.
Let me know, what are some of the ways you put yourself first so that the care you give can be better!
Samantha C. Johnson