I was recently caught off guard by a couple of simply warm and beautiful days here in Boston—they seemed to be some sort of promise that spring must indeed be coming! The concept of renewal has since been on my mind. No, not the usual items that the term renewal conjures up (you know, licenses, certificates, subscriptions, prescriptions, and so forth) but rather the renewal of the self.

What have you done recently to renew yourself?

If you are having difficulty answering this question, then I encourage you to read on. 

When interviewing for PA school, I recall being asked about how I would fare doing the same set of tasks day in and day out. As a practicing PA I can say yes, generally speaking, I have a predictable routine each day but each day is markedly different from the previous. Different patients, different diagnoses, different issues, different levels of clinical stability. One thing that doesn’t change, however, is the visibility of the impact of cancer on our patients, their families and friends. Whether we are aware of it or not, that impact permeates our own constitution and if we do not take proper care of ourselves, it can lead to mental and physical exhaustion and ultimately, perhaps, burnout. 

In a survey conducted by Allegra et al, 61.7% oncologists indicated having feelings of burnout with signs of frustration, emotional exhaustion, and lack of satisfaction with their work reported by 78%, 69%, and 50% respectively. This is one of a number of studies reporting significant numbers of oncologists expressing such feelings. 

If we do not take care of ourselves, renew ourselves, it will be exceedingly difficult to care for our patients. 

But self-renewal won’t happen on its own—it needs an action plan, and you are at the helm. 

Where do you start? Take time every day for renewal. Here are some basics…

Debriefing: Set aside time on a regular basis to discuss difficult situations with colleagues. Supporting each other through tough times should be an integral part of what we do, and taking the time to do so has innumerable benefits for our well-being.

Proper rest and nutrition: We emphasize this practice to our patients—as it turns out, it’s good for us, too!

Physical activity: You don’t need to train for a marathon to promote self-renewal, but some sort of physical activity is helpful in the self-renewal process. Find something you enjoy as you will be more inclined to stick with it.

Recording your thoughts: To me, there is some sort of emotional release that comes in doing this kind of activity regularly. It may even be as simple as identifying several things each day for which you are grateful.
Live life fully: Avoid the practice of neglecting activities that bring you joy because you are too busy. Cultivate your relationships and build new ones. Keep your life dynamic.

For further reading, a number of thoughtful suggestions are discussed in greater detail in an appropriately titled JOP article, Balancing Your Life at Work and Home

In the words of Dr. Laurie Lyckholm, “Remember how much value there is in what you do, and how much you are valued. Every day, you directly and indirectly affect tens and hundreds of peoples’ lives.”

Take care.


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