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.
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.