I have a quote in my home that states "Give Yourself the Same Care and Attention you so Kindly Give Others and Watch Yourself Bloom". As a family physician this has always resonated with me, as I understand the importance of mental and physical wellbeing. However, only recently did I feel that this quote was my motivation to encourage me to make a drastic change.
Working as a family physician during the current pandemic has been the most challenging time of my career. I have worked as a family physician in South Surrey, BC since 2009 and I feel it's a privilege to care for all of my 1892 patients. I have supported my patients in any way possible as we navigate this pandemic. I have witnessed the rise in mental health issues amongst my patients, I have grieved with family members who didn't get to say a proper goodbye to a loved one and I have been forced to deal with a strained health care system which can't always deliver the care to its patients in a timely manner. I continue to give to my patients in any way I can, but for the first time in my career I have wondered, can I continue to give them everything they need or will this break me? What can I do to refuel myself to be the best of me?
I have always prided myself on having a good work-life balance and this was the envy of many of my friends and colleagues. I set boundaries on my work responsibilities and guarded the time with my friends, family and self. With the pandemic these boundaries became blurred. I have many interests outside of medicine but one of my true passions is creating. The joy I feel when I finish a quilt for an end of the year present for my child's teacher, arrange flowers from my garden to give to a friend to let them know I'm thinking of them or plan a special birthday brunch to celebrate a family member is extremely rewarding. I am lucky to have a craft room in my home where I can escape to create and get lost in my projects. Recently, my craft room has sat empty. The projects I had started had been put on hold and I would only glance into the room as I hurried past it on my way to work. Recently, as I went into my craft room to grab something quickly, I glanced at the quote (mentioned above) which hangs framed in that room. Something made me pause and reflect. Am I giving myself the care and attention I give to others? The answer was clearly no. The next step, figure out how to get that care back and let myself "bloom".
For the first time in my career I knew I needed to take a step back from medicine and not because I didn't want to be a doctor any more, but because I wanted to be a better doctor. I am only half way through my career and something needed to change so I didn't burn out. I wanted to continue to feel the excitement and passion in medicine that I felt in my early years just after I had finished my residency. I needed to find a balance between the right and left side of my brain. I needed to create more and heal my soul so that I could then fully be there for my patients. I needed to make my physical (I have epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis) and emotional wellbeing a priority. I needed to be present for my husband and kids. With this new determination I set out to find a way to reduce my work hours without compromising the care of my patients.
Once I made this decision the pieces seemed to fall into place. I reached out to an amazing physician and she agreed to join our practice and share my patients. This would allow me to slightly reduce my work hours so that I can spend more time re-exploring my creative side. For years I have been encouraged by friends to share my creative projects and I finally took the plunge and started sharing my creations on Instagram. As I believe the universe has a plan for all of us, posting on instagram resulted in me reconnecting with a friend from medical school who I hadn’t spoken to in 16 years! Our friendship was instantly rekindled over our love of creating and our need to improve our own wellness. Through emails, text messages and FaceTime calls we created Nurture & Bloom Wellness Inc. This is a business we are very proud of as it is dedicated to helping female healthcare providers connect, with a focus on improving, and maintaining, physical and mental wellbeing.
While this company is still in the infancy stages it has already had a significant impact on my life. I’m already starting to feel the separation of my work and home life while at the same time seeing the positive interconnection between them. With the new dedicated time to create and focus on my wellness, I have been able to more easily relax and release the stresses associated with being a physician. I have been able to create and make myself a priority, without feeling the time constraints of my professional responsibilities. When I'm interacting with my patients I'm feeling more present and available for them. I'm regaining a confidence in my ability to be the family physician who is there to support their patient without feeling exhausted or frustrated. I'm able to lead by example and show my patients the importance of self care. In other words, I'm starting to "bloom". There is more work to be done and it will forever be evolving but I'm back onto a path that feels right.