Are You Self-Care Ready For Crisis?
I’m a bit of a fan of New Amsterdam, the hospital drama showing on Amazon. There is something captivating about the interactions between staff members, hospital patients and the hierarchy. And I love the diversity of the team, each with their own unique strengths, imperfections and outlooks.
Having recently watched the last episode of series 2, there was an interesting interaction around the topic of self-care. The episode was originally meant to be ‘Pandemic’ but due to the current reality we are facing it was thought best not to air it and in its place ‘A Matter Of Seconds’ was shown with the introduction of a new character, Dr Cassian Shin. played by Daniel Dae Kim – the new Trauma Surgeon (who himself caught Covid-19 during the filming of Pandemic and fortunately made a full recovery).
If you have watched the show you’ll know that Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), the hospital’s Medical Director, has a tagline ‘How can I help?’, one that all the team are encouraged to subscribe to, one the represents the ethos of the hospital.
Then along comes Dr Cassian, who, whilst wholeheartedly subscribing to the ethos, demonstrates it in a different way. From the moment of his arrival at the hospital you sense he is going to do things differently.
It starts with him being met by Dr Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman), who welcomes him and is intent on putting him straight to work. And whilst he listens to her, his immediate thoughts turn to where the washrooms are and the need for a shower. Overriding Dr Sharpe’s desire to get moving he has his shower, and after viewing a couple of patients who he leaves in the capable hands of other doctors on duty (once satisfied they knew what to do), he gets a protein bar as Dr Sharpe questions his need for energy given he hasn’t actually done anything yet. You sense the frustration in her, and Dr Cassian appears to rise above it; not uncaring just somewhat detached from the urgency she is displaying.
That is, until crisis hits, a trauma case comes flying in the door and suddenly he shifts into action. Calm, level-headed and in-action. With limited choices of where to take the patient he is switched on enough to think outside of the hospital walls and uses the ambulance space. He manages to direct his team, help the patient and win over Dr Sharpe with his practical and fast thinking hands-on approach.
Dr Cassian goes on to explain his work ethic; “If a person turns up who needs a trauma surgeon I need to be at the top of my game and that may require a shower, a nap or a protein bar; whatever it takes I’m going to do it because I need to be ready. Self-care saves lives… “
Dr Sharpe studies him for a moment and says, ‘that makes perfect sense’, “But?” he asks. “But I save lives every day too and without naps” …
And the truth is they are both dedicated doctors who take their work seriously. They both get results, with focused self-care and without it. So why are the seslf-care rules Dr Cassian operates by so important? Why does it save lives? Why is it critical for the crisis moments in life?
Ultimately, if, we try to do everything for everyone, at some point we are going to burn out – that’s a fact. Dr Shin states “I didn’t take the job to help everyone, I took the job to help trauma victims” and for him to do so to the best of his ability, he has to take care of himself. Imagine the limitations of his ability to think through options at speed, to have the energy to get right into action and perform surgery without sufficient rest, much less rally his team. We know it probably doesn’t happen his way in many hospitals due to staff shortages and the demands of the work environment, but that doesn’t make it right; perhaps changes are required.
As all scenarios provide potential lessons, here are a few things we can learn from this one as we deal with life and crisis situations:
- When we take care of our health & wellbeing, we position ourselves to be able to do more, more effectively and with more energy, meaning when crisis hits, we have what is physically & mentally needed to deal with it
- With self-care in place we learn to appreciate ourselves, our strengths and how best to utilise them in any arising situations
- When we get clear on who, what & how we want to help others, it stops us getting distracted by trying to be all things to everyone and instead get better at signposting those we are unable to serve to others who can
- We learn how to prioritise what we need to do and that helps us to be more efficient
- We know, with confidence, that what we do get done, is done to the best of our ability with focus and attention to detail where necessary
There may not be a perfect formula for how much time to spend on self-care, however, if we are constantly aiming to replenish and refuel ourselves, we can be better prepared for the challenges and crisis that will, at some point, occur. They are, after all, part of life’s rich tapestry and we can choose to do whatever we can to manage them well through self-care or spend the rest of our lives facing them in varying degrees of stress, turmoil or burn-out. The big question is, which would you prefer? And if you are choosing self-care, what are you doing to ensure it is being embedded & prioritised in your life?
I would love to know!