I guess it’s just that time of the year. The latter half of our 2nd term is rising over the horizon, March Break (aka vacation time) ending, finished with St. Patrick’s Day and Easter just around the corner, the tax season deadline approaching, and the slow but inevitable lurch forward (like some sort of not giving up…school guy) of clerkship, all these things have got me thinking about the whole “work life balance” and wellness.
Yes, I realize this topic enjoys as much attention in medical school as pictures of cats do on the InterWebs, but with the 1st OMSA Wellness Retreat geared up this Friday, it’s hard not to think on the subject and muse.
The concept of Wellness has developed it’s own curriculum. Through stand-alone lectures, lunch time seminars and workshops, regular emails (while writing this piece, I actually received an email regarding Wellness), and sharing of published literature on the subject, Wellbeing and learner health has become as integral to the medical school experience as anatomy. This has obviously been a great improvement upon the attitudes and culture in the past.
As a side note, an interesting piece of history can be found when examining how one of the longest standing traditional notions in medicine, the superhumanly long overnight on call shifts, was largely influenced by the work habits of a prominent physician who himself was using and addicted to cocaine throughout his whole career (it was not yet illegal at the time). While better regulation for sleep and shift scheduling have finally been implemented, through the goggles of hindsight it is fairly obvious that such a practice was inevitably unbalanced.
But with the acknowledgement that there is more focus on Wellness and Health these days, more than ever, in medical school, there should still be a caution on how the pendulum has the tendency to over swing.
The caveat that should be mentioned is that Wellness is not simply an ends to reach, or another goal to accomplish, or another role (like the other CanMeds ones) for students to adopt and check off their mental CVs. Nor should Wellness remain focused solely on Physical and Social wellbeing. While these are necessary components to wellness, there are other equally important components that are under-appreciated.
Current Wellness Counseling theory contents that a person’s wellbeing and individual health can be conceptualized to include aspects of physical, intellectual, social, spiritual, emotional, financial, and occupational (or environmental) wellness. Each of these components can be in or out of balance, and it’s important to appreciate what could be missing in one’s lifestyle. That said, I will reiterate that it shouldn’t be about determining that components A, B, or C are depleted and by doing activities X, Y, Z, they will be more in line with the other ones, but rather realizing a lifestyle that can fulfill these aspects to your satisfaction.
I realize that this doesn’t require a total and sudden makeover (are you thinking what I’m thinking?), but is more of a mindset that one adopts over time. And, as one of the more infamous Night Owls in my class, definitely a topic I could use some more appreciation about.
Well, I got a few more days to think about this as I head to the Wellness Retreat this weekend. As overemphasized as this subject is, I still believe in it’s importance and am very excited for a weekend designated especially for learning more about it.