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Doctor, do you take your own advice?

By Joseph Chow, MD, President, Ambulatory Care

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a TV interview with a local affiliate. The reporter was asking about the flu and how best to prevent it, which really boils down to a question of how to stay healthy. My answer flowed easily: receive your flu shot, follow proper cough etiquette, wash your hands frequently, get quality rest, eat healthy and exercise regularly.

Flu shot: check.

Cough etiquette: check.

Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently: check.

As I suspect for many of the clinicians reading this, the last three in this list are hit or miss. (I will put down my coffee for breakfast. Although some recent studies show coffee may have health benefits outside of caffeinating, that is for another discussion).

Why is it so easy to decree to patients but so hard to take that short walk ourselves? Usually, it is a mix of stories we tell ourselves- “I don’t have time.” “I’ll just treat myself this time.” “Tomorrow I’ll start.” Whatever the story is, we need to make the decision to refute our stories and turn our advice into habits. In Latin, “decision” means literally “to cut off” all other possibilities. It is non-negotiable. Whether it is rest, diet or exercise, make that decision to improve on for this year.

What is the downside of not taking our advice? Well, we see many examples at our facilities every day, ranging from physical to emotional ailments.

What is the benefit? We all know them. Prioritizing our own well-being gives us the energy to give our best to our families, work and patients.

We are fortunate there are resources to help us make these choices or provide suggestions. TeamHealth has made a great effort to support clinicians in making healthy choices. I encourage you to browse through the Wellness section of Zenith or the LiveWell WorkLife Services website. The past few National Medical Leadership Conferences had sessions on clinician burnout, also available on Zenith. We are all a community of clinicians who can share suggestions and stories on how to maintain health and productivity, so share with each other. I am happy to share with anyone over a cup of coffee next time I see you!

The next time you give advice to your patients on their health, take pause and reflect whether you are subscribing to the same recommendations.