How Taking Care of Ourselves Can Change Everything

Joanna Lewis, PharmD, MBA has found her way out of burnout by making self-care a priority in her life.

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Joanna Lewis knows putting yourself first can make all the difference in how you practice. Self-care helps you grow and become energized in ways that help with work and personal life. 

Thank you so much for your time! I know you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what early experiences brought you to choosing a career in the medical profession?

Hello! Thank you for letting me share my story! I have always been interested in health and medicine, but I did not start pursuing a career in pharmacy until I shadowed some health professionals while I was in college. Before those shadow experiences, my perception of a pharmacist was only someone who worked behind the counter at the local drugstore. In reality, there are many different career paths and opportunities within this profession and that along with the flexibility and direct patient care is what ultimately lead me to pursuing this profession.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you in your career as a doctor?

The most interesting story for me is one of personal growth. After a bout of burnout and a health emergency, I realized what a toll stress was taking on me mentally and physically. Through the healing process, I learned a lot about wellness and self-care and how many of our systems in healthcare are setting us up for failure. Ultimately, that was what birthed my social media platform, The Pharmacist’s Guide. Secondly, I realize that experience and growth take time. I intuitively knew what I wanted my career to look like, but I had to go through the journey of trusting myself, putting in the work and taking action.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting out on your career? What lesson did you learn from that?

When I was in pharmacy school, I did not have a lot of exposure to the IV room on my rotations. I did my internship at Walgreens and outpatient medications are very different from medications used in the hospital. At one of the first codes that I attended in the hospital, I could not figure out how to draw up epinephrine. The prefilled boxes were on shortage so we had these big vials.  There was a contraption in the code tray to puncture the vial and I kept inserting it upside down (this was different than the “pop the cap, insert the needle”). Luckily, there was another pharmacist with me, but I never made that mistake again!

To #DareToCare means to survive and thrive in today’s medical world. How do you take care of yourself? What’s the routine you must do to thrive every day?

First, I really love your message and work behind #daretocare!  This is the most important thing we can do as health professionals – care for ourselves so that we can care for others.  The things I prioritize in my routine are exercise, meditation and sleep. These three activities help me manage my stress and in turn, be a better health care professional who is in a resourceful state to give and grow each day.

I write a series of letters to my God-daughter in my latest book. In that same vein, what are 5 things you would tell your younger self? 

You are responsible for your own happiness. Graduating with a certain degree does not ensure career happiness. Marrying a certain partner is not going to guarantee relationship bliss. You have to do the work for yourself, figure out what is important to you, and then prioritize those areas in your life. 

You do not have to have every career step figured out. Part of life is learning to weather the storms, roll with the punches and be comfortable with the in between.

Take that big vacation! I started my full-time job a few weeks after school ended. I was paying off student loans and my fiancé at the time was on his medical rotations so we did not have a lot of downtime. We did have a couple of opportunities where we could have taken some big vacations and I wish we would have. Life is not all about work and it is much easier to get away before you have children!

Being uncomfortable is how you grow. It stinks, but it is true. Any great accomplishment in life involves some risk, some fear, and taking a leap.

Do not forget sunscreen! I am a pharmacist so I have to say that!

How can medical professionals reclaim heart-based healing amid pandemic, political, and other pressures?

To reclaim heart-based healing, we need to take care of ourselves – just like they tell people on airplanes – put your own oxygen mask on first. In healthcare, our workloads get bigger and bigger without additional resources or people. Taking our PTO, decompressing and having downtime is essential to our wellbeing.

Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your work as a healthcare professional? Can you explain?

I love reading and there have been many influential books for me throughout my career. Atomic Habits by James Clear, Essentialism by Greg McKeown and Mindset by Carol Dweck are all books that have fueled my personal and professional growth.

Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence in the healthcare community. If you could inspire other doctors and nurses to bring change to affect the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Said another way, what difference do you see needs to be made for our collective future?

Healthcare professionals tend to problem solve for the task at hand without addressing the bigger issue. This can look like approving medication assistance for the patient being discharged, but not addressing the bigger problem of medication affordability as a whole. Because we usually focus on clinical work and not the business or administrative side of things, decisions often get made that may not align with the mission of healthcare. By being involved in decisions and advocating more for patients and our clinical work, I think we could solve some of the bigger issues in healthcare today.  

How can people connect with you?

I am active on social media at @pharmacistsguide and I have a blog, thepharmacistsguide.com. I love sharing my journey and helping others prioritize their wellness!

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