Doc, Are You Taking Care of Yourself?

October 22, 2010

Physicians often don't take the time to foster their own physical and mental health. In our Great American Physician Survey this year, we found that about 30 percent of you don't get much exercise, and 32 percent don't have a regular primary-care physician. Sixty-four percent get routine check-ups and follow their doctor's advice.

The health of your patients is your top priority, and often your sole focus. But what about taking care of yourself? 

Physicians often don't take the time to foster their own physical and mental health. In our Great American Physician Survey this year, we found that about 30 percent of you don't get much exercise, and 32 percent don't have a regular primary-care physician. Sixty-four percent get routine check-ups and follow their doctor's advice.

The long hours and extraordinary demands facing physicians can take a physical and mental toll. Although our survey also found that most of you are generally happy, we often hear from docs struggling from burnout, stress, and fatigue.

In a guest column on KevinMD.com, AMA President Cecil Wilson addresses physician well-being: "Research shows that when a physician adopts a healthier lifestyle - be it increased physical activity, eating better, losing weight, not smoking, limiting alcohol intake - they are more likely to ask patients the right questions related to those behaviors when they are doing a history and physical exam. Improved physician health also helps enhance patient care. A healthy, mentally alert physician can better care for patients."

Do you agree?

Finding time to take care of yourself is hard. Next month, in The List feature in the journal, we explore quick ways to live healthier. Here's a preview:

1. Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids (coffee and soda don't count) can help keep your immune function and mental concentration high.

2. Get your exercise on the go. Take the stairs or go for a short walk whenever you find yourself with a few extra minutes.

Are you making your health a priority? What do you do to stay healthy?