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Here’s Why We Need to Improve Our Well-being as Healthcare Professionals

Musings of a Black Healthcare Professional in Our New Normal

Ever feel like a fraud? I realized my years in pharmacy school, and as a pharmacist spent counseling lifestyle changes wasn’t genuine. You know what. My routine was to go home after work to eat the same foods and drinks I told my patients to avoid.  Now, it’s not like I didn’t know the harm poor nutrition causes. 

But our brains have an odd way of encouraging us to take part in things that aren’t good for us (health care providers are no exception). If you’re reading this now, guzzling down a Coke and munching down on Cheetos (no judgment here). As healthcare professionals, I think now is the perfect time to re-evaluate how we care for our own bodies and minds.

If you’re like me, nutrition and lifestyle-based tactics were a small portion of what you’ve learned in school. And, we know many lifestyle choices our patients make have a direct connection to their disease states. I mean, it’s common sense in a way—what we choose to consume has a powerful influence on how our genes express. 

I have confidence in the ability of certain drugs and surgeries to improve and save lives too. But, we should get back to the basics and ensure our lifestyle choices align with our overall health goals (for ourselves, our families, and patients)

The COVID-19 crisis has sparked a lot of uncertainty in all our lives. People around the world had to forgo elective surgeries. People also refused to go in for acute treatment of serious conditions. What can we offer our patients if we have an overwhelmed healthcare system, and they can’t meet with us? This is where offering your patients, evidence-based ways to manage their health at home comes in. 

Also, whether we want to admit it or not, we have tons of privilege here in the U.S… Am I right? We often delegate our well-being to some outside entity to watch after and manage. This sounds like a sweet deal to me. Healthcare providers everywhere are scrambling to help patients who are ill from COVID-19.

And, the fact is, most of those patients in the U.S. belong to minority groups, and we know black people are more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. To make matters worse, black people are more likely to come down with this virus if exposed (due to a compromised immune system)

There’s hope, though. You can find some light in thoughtful comments like Van Jones’ in his recent article with CNN, encouraging black people to “own [their] health”. The simple truth is. We all have the responsibility to take care of our bodies. 

These truths make me rethink stretching my hand out to reach for the cookie jar again and again during the lockdown.  This isn’t an expose about COVID or my eating habits, though, but it’s a call for us as healthcare providers to take better care of ourselves and ‘practice what we preach’.

 If we tell our diabetic patients to put down the donut, and we munch down on a dozen every week (who are we fooling). Or, if we tell a patient to stop smoking cigarettes and we smoke a whole pack on our lunch breaks (who are we fooling).

Once we give our body, soul, and mind what it needs, we can better serve our community and lower burnout at the same time. I know these truths can be difficult to swallow, but please think about what I shared here. Remember that you’re not alone in what challenges you might experience. 

So, what steps will you take towards a healthier future for you and your patients?

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