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Physicians Should Lead by Example


My challenge to my fellow physicians is to find ways to bring the health coaching you do for your patients to your staff.

As part of my own journey to increased wellness, on the days I'm in clinic I try to take a walk during my lunch hour, weather permitting. I started the practice two years ago as part of an exercise in mindfulness. During that walk, I try to focus on the colors, sights, smells, and different sounds around me - rather than replay the morning I just experienced, or anticipate possible problems in the coming afternoon. The nursing staff sees me as I head out and as I return to clinic. Recently, I invited one of our nurses to join me.

I struggle with how to set the best example of health and wellness for my coworkers at clinic. I used to be the one with the big bowl of chocolate on my desk and am still the one who brings in home-baked goodies on occasion. I've flirted with the idea of bringing in salad fixings instead, but that feels more like an obligation to eat your veggies and less like the reward it is supposed to be.

Most of my physician colleagues are in good health - they exercise, eat right, and are a healthy weight. Even though we don't have much time for a lunch break during a busy clinic day, we still eat relatively healthy for lunch. I don't ever remember seeing a physician colleague with a bag of fast food. Part of the reason we engage in healthy behaviors is because we see, countless times each day, the devastating consequences of being overweight or not exercising or eating poorly. However, I imagine most of us continue to work in environments in which a candy drawer can be found in the nurse's station, there is a pile of take-out menus in the break room, someone's child seems to be permanently selling candy or cookies for a school fundraiser, and maybe there are even (gasp!) vending machines.

As my clinic nurse and I walked during our lunch break, I realized how therapeutic - on many levels - the break was for us both. I had an actual conversation about personal things that had nothing to do with my workday. That was a mental break. I got outside and felt the sunshine. I moved my legs and breathed deeply. That was a physical break. And I connected with someone with whom I've worked for years but haven't taken the time to know as well as I'd like. That was an emotional break.

Our days - whether as a nurse or physician - are emotionally, mentally, and physically challenging. Too often, we burn through the day, using up all of our reserves, instead of recharging and refueling. My challenge to my fellow physicians out there is to find ways that you can bring the health coaching you do for your patients with diabetes or obesity to your clinical staff. This may include:

• A group walk over lunch

• Biking together after work

• Sponsoring a salad or smoothie lunch in which everyone brings in something healthy to share

• Modeling healthy behavior

• Getting rid of tempting treats hidden around the clinic

• Joining a gym together

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