Working In Oncology
Working In Oncology

Episode 4 · 1 year ago

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish in Healthcare w/ Dr. Darin Davidson


Mindset training isn’t just for athletes. 

Since burnout can strike anyone anywhere, those of us in oncology need to train ourselves to recognize and overcome burnout — so we can do our best work for our patients. 

In this episode, we interview Dr. Darin Davidson, Founder at Darin Davidson, MD Consulting, about managing emotional wellbeing and burnout. 

What we talked about: 

-What burnout is vs. what stress is 

-The importance of mindset training 

-Tips for counteracting burnout 

-Daily habits we can change 

Stay connected with Working in Oncology on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our podcast website.

If we are looked after first. In order to be able to do the best work we can for our patients, we need to be in a good place ourselves, mentally, emotionally physically. You're listening to working in oncology, a podcast and video show that spotlights oncology practice staff and industry influencers who work behind the scenes to shape the future of oncology. The more knowledge the oncology community shares with each other, the more we all grow. Let's get into the show. Welcome to working in oncology. I'm your cohost, Alicia Evans. I'm joined today by Dr Darren Davidson. Darren, welcome to the show, I at leas see. Thanks for having I've been really looking forward to our conversation today. I think that burnout is something we're all prone to as we juggle so many demands, especially with everything that's happening in two thousand and twenty, and when I think about the added pressure of working in an oncology office, I know our listeners will find so much value and what you're going to share today. Yes, I'm looking forward to the conversation. Before we jump into the conversation, tell our listeners and viewers a little bit about you, your background and what you do. Sure. Well, I'm an orthopedic surgeon by training and my area of subspecialty practices in oncology, so benign and Mali in bone and so off tissue humors, and my journey to what I'm doing I really started when I developed an interest in sports psychology in high school and I read a little bit about mindset training at the time and and try to make use of some of those ideas back then. But as I got into college and Med school training and starting my clinical oncology practice, I lost track of a lot of those skills, unfortunately at the time in life where it could have used them the most. But nonetheless that's how it happened and about five or six years ago now, which was four or five years into my into my oncology practice, I became quite burnt out. I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back it's very clear to me that I was becoming and then did become burnt out. Fortunately, never the type of burnout that led to any substance abuse problems. Fortunately that never led to any patient care issues, but burnt out nonetheless. And the silver lining to it was. It brought me back to those mindset training ideas that I learned about twenty five years or so before, and I got back in touch with that, with those ideas, and was with learning about them again, getting updated on it, only to find that that field had really expanded a lot, both with the mindset training, with incorporation of meditation, sleep, science, nutrition, exercise and recovery principles, and in learning about that, it became a passion of mine to bring those ideas, those principles into the healthcare system, partly for treating patients and incorporating that into their care, but also for treating ourselves in each other as as healthcare professionals, because these principles are used in many different industries to promote high performance so that we can be working at our highest level, but they also overlap with helping to reduce the risks of burnout, at least at the individual level. So I think that they're really important skills and habits to train and develop in all of us and to promote each other. It sounds like you're quite the expert on burnout. Today we're going to talk about how to recognize and prevent burnout and we're going to discuss mindset, training and maybe, if you tips and techniques are listeners and viewers can incorporate into their everyday lives to achieve optimal performance. Sounds Great. Sounds Great. So burnout is a term that is used a lot in the healthcare industry, but what does it really mean? Can you give us a quick definition? Well, I think the thing about burnout as it can manifest itself in so many different ways. I think that we all might have a different idea of what it means to say somebody's burnt out or is burnt our burning out, and certainly in the extreme form, we might all agree and have a very shared idea of somebody who is no longer finding fulfillment enjoyment in the... that they're doing, somebody that might be depressed, if it's very severe, somebody who might be more irritable or reactive than they might otherwise be, somebody who is detached from the work that they're doing, both with their patients as well as with their their colleagues and partners. But it could also be a lot more subtle and I think that ideally we would all have the skills in place to decrease the chance of ever get thing burnt out, even mildly, and certainly would recognize it in ourselves, in each other, probably more likely in each other, because it's hard to see that in yourself before it becomes more severe. And we know that at the more severe end of the spectrum of burnout it can really manifest into some serious personal issues as far as substance abuse, depression, suicide even becomes something, sadly, that that becomes talked about. It obviously can have a big impact on relationships, both personal and professional, and then on professional side, with partners and colleagues, as well as with patients, and so it can really affect every aspect of somebody's of somebody's life. The people who work in oncology practices usually work in high stress environments. It's really difficult to care for patients, patients who are terminal, especially when they become like family. They work long hours and there's lots of demands on them. And then we have covid they're working with patients who are munal suppressed and at high risk. It's really hard. So for sure, how how can our listeners assess whether they're experiencing burnout? Or if it's just like normal everyday stress? Well, that's that's a great question and I think it can become a fine line between just the normal everyday stresses and demands and when it goes over that point to becoming burnt out, and I think that there's a few different ways that that we can all address that issue of recognizing it as early as possible, and I think it starts first and foremost with with self awareness to try as best as possible to understand how we're doing, how we're feeling, checking in with ourselves, knowing if we feel like our stress levels are getting too high, if our fulfillment with our work is not what it may have once been, are we feeling engaged and connected with our patients, in our in our partners at work, or we starting to feel detached? These can all be red flags for somebody who is developing or has become burnt out. I think another thing is is that as healthcare professionals, we have to look after each other and have to be able to be comfortable enough to talk with each other about these difficult issues and if we have concerns about this possibly starting in one of our partners, to be able to bring it up with them and to talk with them so that we can try to give them the support and help that they that they need. And then, of course, the ultimate is to put in place habits and skills to just decrease the risk of this happening in the first place, which I know we'll talk about through our conversation. Absolutely so, why do you think so many of us overlook selfcare and doing that kind of self reflection and self assessment? Well, I think unfortunately in our and our culture and in our society, not just healthcare but larger society, we are almost left with this feeling that selfcare or looking after ourselves can be selfish. And particularly within the healthcare round, we're really trained right from the beginning to prioritize patients, and rightfully so, but we're a lot of us get a message that looking after ourselves is somehow not doing our job properly, that it's somehow is not prioritizing the patient, to make sure that we ourselves are in a good place first,...

...and unfortunately it's just simply not true. We really cannot be of service to others if we aren't looked after first in order to be able to do the best work we can for our patients. We need to be in a good place ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, all of the different aspects to our overall health and wellbeing, and I think sadly, we're just not, in a sense, trained to think that way and to live that way, and it would be great to get back to being more centered on on these sorts of ideas, because ultimately they will lead to us being able to interact with others, to empathize with others, to be compassionate to others and to do our job to the best degree we're able if we do look after ourselves first. I love that. So selfcare, it's not selfish. Know, in many respects of selfless be because it allows us to be there for others, and that's not just a work, it's it. I know personal lives as well, be it with friends or family, loved ones, children, you know, whoever's in our lives. In order to be the best version of ourselves for others, we need to look after ourselves first. But a great message. What are the sum of the dangers, do you think of not engaging in self care and overlooking that part of daily life? Yeah, I think that's really important to talk about that. I think if we don't pant enough attention to Selfcare, we in a sense least touch with ourselves and how we're doing, and that sets off, I think, a little bit of us, the potential for a site I call where things can start to deteriorate, get harder. Our ability to deal with stress is decreasing, but because we're not checking in with ourselves, because we're not looking after ourselves, that can slowly get a bit worse and a bit worse and a bit worse. And and we don't have this mechanism with within ourselves, if we're not used to doing selfcare, to identify it before it becomes more severe. On the flip side, if we do have that practice in place of being able to really connect with ourselves and be selfaware and we notice things are starting to slip a little bit, for example not connecting with others as much as we typically would, we can sort of put the brakes on it and put things in place to get back on track. And there's lots of different strategies and skills that we can use to do that. And if we can train those skills proactively, so that they're strong and ready to be used when we need them. It leaves us in the best place possible because we all go through difficult times. None of us are going to skate through life with no challenges or obstacles or setbacks along the way. It's about how we bounce back from them and having having all of these skills built up as best we can in advance of those setbacks lets us work through them to the best of our ability. So I have heard you talk about mindset training. Hmmm, for listeners, can you tell us what do you mean by that? Well, so the mindset training we're talking about people might be most familiar with in in like a sports environment, like sports psychology, and athletes doing this sort of training to have their minds at the best, at the optimal level for their performance. And we're talking about training skills like the ability to focus, the ability to refocus, to maintain optimism, to be able to self regulate if we get too worried or too anxious, or talking about the abilities to really manage distractions around us, to bounce back from disappointments or failures. And for quite some time sports psychologists have been a big part of many professional and Olympic and amateur sports teams. But really, when we think about it, how different is it in the healthcare realm as far as we're trying to also perform do our job as consistently and as at higher level as possible for our patients?...

And so many of these ideas will work just as well in the healthcare realm as they would in the many other industries that they've been used for a lot longer time. And, like we are talking about before, having trained these skills as early as possible allows us to make sure that there as strong as possible for when those big challenges really come up, and in an oncology setting, in an oncology practice, they can come up very often and we want to make sure we can, you know, be at our best when those challenges come up, and frequently that starts with with our minds. Can you provide a few tips and tricks that are audience can use to manage their emotional wellbeing and prevent thorn out? Yeah, I think. I think there's a few different big categories and perhaps we can we can talk in a bit more detail about each of those. I think the mindset training is one of them. Training the ability, for example, to be optimistic, to maintain concentration and focus, and these sorts of skills can be very helpful. I think having a meditation practice of one kind or another, as there's different schools of meditation, is very helpful very essential. By itself, it's not sufficient, but I think it is a necessary part to looking after ourselves so that we can per form at our best and also minimize the risk of burnout. That might be mindfulness meditation as an example. I think other aspects are more along the lines of recovery, and so this is something we hear a lot about. Again, going back to the sports world, you know, an athlete has a big competition and following the competition they recover so that they're ready to go for the next training event or the next competitive event, whatever it may be. But if one thinks of a busy clinic day in an oncology setting, there's a lot of emotional and psychological stress that goes on, demands at our placed through the day. There's even physical ones, and as a surgeon doing big long surgeries is a example, but as any type of practicing oncologist, there's a lot of physical demands as well. And if we don't recover, then when we go back to work the next day we can't be at our best. So we do need to recover similar to an athlete following competition. In those ideas again include some of the mindset training ideas, but also getting enough sleep, enough adequate nutrition, hydration, exercise. All of these principles are really important to optimize to the extent we can so that each patient encounter we have we can have the best chance of being at our best. And so I would say those are the big the big categor stories, the mindset, training, meditation, sleep, nutrition, exercise and keeping track of our recovery following every day to be ready for the next day. And by recovery, do you mean just at an additional period of rest or what? What do you mean by recovery? So it's really making sure that our minds and our bodies have, in a sense, worked through and process the demands of what we just finished so that they could so we can be ready for the next day. And it includes making sure we get enough sleep, it includes making sure our bodies are I quit nutrition, which in the present days with the covid pandemic, is even more important for making sure our immune system is working as optimally as possible. It includes getting exercise, because that is part of allowing our bodies, in our minds, to recover, is getting all of the benefits of exercise, and it includes using meditation and those mindset skills to help, in a sense, rejuvenate our minds and get our minds over the stress and demands that we've been through in order to be ready to go into the next into the next day. So as in exist as...

...some examples of bringing all of those together, I would recommend and suggest that that we all have a meditation practice, and how that might look might be very different for different people because of their schedules. As an example, I tend to do ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes at night, but you know, it can look a whole bunch of different ways depending on what works for people. About trying to get enough sleep, which mostly experts would say it's between seven and nine hours a night, which sounds almost impossible as a healthcare provider, but it is really important. Proper nutrition, making sure we're getting in as much whole food as possible and as much adequate nutrition so that our minds and our bodies essentially have the fuel it needs to be able to to work at our best. Regular exercise program that doesn't have to be that intense, but regular, ideally daily, but at least three or four times a week, some form of exercise to help our bodies recover, and putting all of this together into a daily, or at least a regular routine, so that it becomes a habit and just a part of our schedule is very important to optimize our recovery but also, by doing that, to minimize the chances for burning so many of our listeners have been neglecting selfcare, neglecting themselves for so long. It's been at the back of their mind. They've been dealing with work, pandemic, homeschooling, all of these things together. So how do you recommend that we start to Change Our daily habits? What's a good place to start? I think a really great place to start is just by taking a few minutes at one point in a day to have an opportunity to just focus on some breathing and to do even the beginnings of of a mindfulness meditation practice. And it could just be a minute to start with. It could be a bit longer but just a very small amount of time, so it's very manageable. It's not too intrusive in all the busy stuff that we all have going on, but it's enough to just slow everything down, to become a bit more self aware and to start the selfcare process in a sense. And I think if people can start to do that and make that a regular habit with even just a few minutes a day, one quickly sees the benefits of it and then can start to see different ways of incorporating this on a larger time basis throughout the day. And I wouldn't start by having all of those aspects we talked about, because I can seem very overwhelming to have all of these habits are now going to add on to an already busy schedule. But starting with one simple skill like breathing, I think is a perfect start and then we can add things on from there. So maybe just a moment of quiet in your car before you go to work. Radio, maybe some silent yeah, I I think that were perfectly yeah, yeah, I'm there's a lot. There's lots of meditation APPs that are available. I'm you know, I've done you know, five minute, ten minute, meditation after parking my car, before going into work. I mean it can take a lot of different forms and durations of time. I think just getting started as the big the big obstacle, that first step. Yeah, so how do you think that Covid has impacted our wellbeing? Well, I think in many different ways. I think even for people who have not been directly affected by the virus itself, there's just so many effects because of the virus all around us and that just adds to the stress level. And and if we think of overall stresses being like a cup or a bucket or whatever you... to visualize, and liquid inside of it, there's so much pouring into it. From covid as a result of the disruption to the date, to our daily lives, concerns about the health of ourselves, of our loved ones, of patients, the added economic issues, the added difficulties if we have children that are now at home for school, the just overall concerns for humanity. I mean there's so much uncertainty that it just can put a lot of stress on on us. Very suddenly, it all came rather unexpectedly, very little warning to it, and we also don't know when it will be over, and so it's got there's a lot of uncertainty, which brings with it a lot of stress, and so if we kind of think of that on top of the stresses we all had beforehand, it can be hard to manage all of that simultaneously, especially over the long duration of time that it's been, depending where in the country one may live. I live just outside Seattle, so it's been over seven months now that we've been in the midst of all of it. So that's a long time for chronic stress. I'm sure it's having an impact on our collective well being as a society. Yeah, yeah, chronic stress is very hard on all of us, not just emotionally and psychologically, but physically as well, and so self care becomes even more important in the midst of this ongoing challenges and stresses that come with with Covid so our oncology achieves are in a unique position to support each other. They're there in the trenches together every day. Can you get this some tips or techniques on how we can support each other during this time just on our path, help each other on our path to better selfcare? Yeah, I think there's depending on the the teams themselves. There's many different ways. One is to just be checking in with each other and and just asking how each other are doing. I think that we can also do a lot of simple habit building together, be it before the day starts, about giving people a space, for example, to do a minute or two a breathing before the day starts, about, you know, bringing in maybe more nutritious snacks for people to have. You know, a lot of times there's food around in a clinic team room or something, and then fewer cookies on their carrot sticks. I'll bet pardon me, I said fewer cookies, more carrot sticks. Yeah, something on those lines, just because the nutrition part is really important for our recovery and our self care and and so helping build those habits that way is a way. I mean maybe even finding ways to take time during the day for for people to get fifteen or twenty minutes to go outside and go for a walk and get a little bit of exercise that way. And I mean I could imagine, depending on again on the personalities within the teams, you could even set up selfcare challenges and, you know, support each other that way by, you know, everybody checking to make sure that they're working on various skills or habits to help promote their own self care, both individually as well as a group. Thank you so much, Darren. This is a lot of information that hopefully are oncology practice team members will be able to incorporate into their daily lives and help to kind of reduce their risk of burnout and reduced this their total stress in their lives. This has been a great conversation. For any of our listeners who want to reach out for any follow up questions or just want to reach out to you, what's the best way for them to do that? Well, I'm certainly available through social media. Social media platforms I can never remember what they are, but there's links to you, twitter, instagram and Linkedin that are all on my website. My website is www dot darren, spelled da ran, Davidson, d a vidsncom,...

...and there's also contact forms on that website if people have questions. That's probably the easiest way to get in touches is through that site and I would definitely be very happy and look forward to speaking with with anybody that has questions or wants to talk further about about any of these topics awesome. Thank you for sharing your insights with us today. We really appreciate you being a guest on the show well. Thanks so much for having me on the show, a leasee. It's been great talking about this important topic. Are You satisfied with your patients curtsy to therapy, or are you just settling? You can improve patient outcomes with bioplus specialty pharmacies power of to the first ever two hour, two day to gather promise. It's faster and easier for you and your patients to learn more. Visit bioplus R xcom. You've been listening to working in oncology. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening an apple podcast, we'd love for you to leave quick rating of the show. Just have the number of stars you get the podcast deserves. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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