Self-care for Medical Students

During the first three weeks of January I ran an SSC (student selected component) called “Self-care for Medical Students” for third year students. We are seeing unprecedented rates of burnout in the medical profession and the rates of addiction and suicide are higher than for the general population. Clearly something is amiss when those who are supposed to know about healthcare and wellbeing are in some ways worse off than those they are caring for. The culture of medicine is altruistic, with the GMC stating under professionalism that patients must always come first: 

“Patients need good doctors. Good doctors make the care of their patients their first concern: they are competent, keep their knowledge and skills up to date, establish and maintain good relationships with patients and colleagues, are honest and trustworthy, and act with integrity and within the law.” 

However, nowhere in this statement does it suggest or require that doctors should care for themselves. We cannot give what we do not have – and so it is vital that doctors know how to truly care for themselves so that they can provide that equal quality of true care for another. Many of the habits and coping skills or lack of them are established at medical school and thus it is important to make medical students aware of the importance of self-care. Indeed the earlier people receive this message in life the better, but that said, it is never too late to develop a more loving, tender and caring way with ourselves. One of the key principles of self-care is knowing that we are worthy of giving ourselves that love and kindness because we are in fact love, that is our essence. And so by reconnecting to this essence we can learn to be guided by our own innate wisdom, to listen to our bodies and how they feel rather than over-riding them with our minds to do things that are not truly caring for the body. 

Below I outline some of the topics and skills that were covered during the course but not all. Over the next number of weeks I will share (with their full permission) with you some of the reflections written by the medical students at the end of the module regarding their experience of putting self-care into practice. They were encouraged to see it as an experiment – to see themselves as a living science, making choices and observing the consequences of those choices on how they felt, their energy levels, their vitality, wellbeing and so forth. It was totally up to them which areas of their life they would focus on and bring a deeper level of self-care to and what changes they would make.  I very much enjoyed reading about their experiences and I’m sure you will too – stay tuned for more!  


Outline of Module

The module aims were to develop self-aware and self-caring medical students who provide true care to their patients by knowing it for themselves. It combined the intelligence of the mind and the wisdom of the heart. It is based on 3 key premises:

1) In order to deliver true care to another, one must first deliver that care to one’s self in equal measure. We cannot give what we do not have.

2) Each of us is worthy of giving deep love, care and tenderness to one’s self.

3) Choices of daily living are a great form of medicine, leading to improved self-care.


Topics covered included:

1)    Who is the self that is being cared for in self-care?

2)    What are the stressors and barriers to self-care in the medical profession?            Exploring the psychoemotional world of doctors.

3)    Holistic and energetic understanding of the human person.

4)    Exploring how mind, body, heart, spirit and soul interconnect.

5)    Learning to read your body – the body as an honest marker of disharmony

6)    Effect of emotions of physical health and wellbeing.

7)    Psychoneuroimmunology, epigenetics and psychosomatic medicine.

8)    Diet, sleep, exercise, work, energetic state of being: impact on health.           Developing routine and rhythm.

9)    Health Myths.

10) Promoting peer support, having a GP and accessing appropriate care.


Practical Sessions:

1)    Energetic awareness

2)    Gentle Breath Meditation

3)    Body awareness – yoga

4)    Conscious presence – mind/body awareness and connection

5)    Gentleness in action

6)    Walking the talk

7)    Role play – compassionate presence

If you would like more information on the selfcare module then please just email me or use the contact box.

The next posts over the coming weeks will be from some of the students reflections on their experience of the module and putting the understandings and tools for self-care into practice.  


  • Reply
    Annette Baker
    18th February 2014 at 10:33 am

    So Brilliant Eunice that you are providing this education and training;
    you are the PERFECT person for the job, having lived this transition back to true health through self care and self love yourself.
    I love “we cannot give what we do not have”, this absolutely needs be one of the first teachings for any healthcare professional.

  • Reply
    Gayle Cue
    17th February 2014 at 10:04 pm

    I felt excitement and relief all at once when I read about this project. Excitement that an essential component of caring for patients is being introduced to western medicine through showing medical students how to care for themselves. And relief that this will eventually trickle throughout the system(s) and be felt by people in need of medical care. Thank you to the Soul-full Doctor for adding another bullet point to an already impressive list of accomplishments in the medical profession.

  • Reply
    17th February 2014 at 10:47 pm

    This is SUPERB, super inspiring and absolutely brilliant that medical students are plunging into self-care waters.

    We definitely need those who care for us to take truly good care of themselves, and not just because we want greater care as patients but also because as you say we are all worthy of deeper love and tender care, medics included.

    Little while ago I was talking with a 4th year medical student and he was sharing that they (he and his fellow students) would deliberately keep track to see who’d drink more coffee to get them through a day…some were on 12…15…!

    That’s an awful lot of caffein for any body and in one day. He explained that it was the only thing that could keep them going the pace they do.

    I very much look forward to reading what your students have to share about their personal experiences.

  • Reply
    18th February 2014 at 6:25 pm

    It is so refreshing to read this Eunice. How super important it is to have the professionals that are taking care of us, also taking true care of themselves.
    So often is the case that they leave themselves till last and therefore compromise the quality of care they are able to offer?
    I look forward to hearing from your students.

  • Reply
    28th February 2014 at 5:06 am

    It is so lovely to read about this initiative. As a young medical student and doctor I felt crushed by the demands of the system, and to know that there is at least one person who is willing to make it about love above all else,and to change the system from within, brings tears of joy to my eyes. Thank you, Eunice.

  • Reply
    Priscila Azeredo de Souza
    20th March 2014 at 9:22 pm

    This is such an amazing initiative and one that should be incorporated in all schools and universities.

  • Reply
    Sue Queenborough
    28th April 2014 at 11:12 am

    This is wonderful Eunice. As an ex-nurse this would have been an invaluable module in my training. I love the testimonials that follow too. Very inspiring. It would be great if this could be taken by med students everywhere.

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