July 24th, 2019 marks International Self Care Day, a day to raise awareness about the importance and benefits of self care.
Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital’s (OTMH) Staff Wellness Program "Kailo" provides programs and services designed to educate staff, physicians and volunteers on ways to avoid compassion fatigue and burnout in their jobs. Compassion fatigue is a term that is used in healthcare to describe the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help individuals in pain.
“Kailo provides programs and services so staff feel like they’re supported by their organization,” says Louisa Nedkov, Kailo’s Coordinator of Staff Wellness. Nedkov and Kailo’s Program Associate, Laura Millar, organize initiatives and events that promote staff wellness.
Recently, Kailo introduced Pet Pause, an opportunity for all hospital staff to come to the courtyard and pet service dogs. “[Petting animals] has been clinically demonstrated to reduce the stress of staff. Anyone who hugs a dog can tell you that,” says Nedkov.
As well as gym facilities at all three sites, the tea cart, an annual ice cream truck visit, massages and complementary reiki and reflexology, Nedkov introduced Schwartz Rounds, a panel discussion designed to strengthen the caregiver-patient relationship and remind caregivers why they entered the healthcare profession. “We brought [Schwartz Rounds] to the hospital because clinical data demonstrates that these rounds prevent compassion fatigue and burnout, increase collaboration and help staff feel less isolated in their jobs. It provides a structured forum for staff to talk about the emotional impact of the work they do.”
Nedkov often presents on topics of burnout, resilience, compassion fatigue and secondary trauma each month at OTMH’s Department of Surgery, hoping to raise awareness and help change the local culture.
“Compassion fatigue and burnout come with the challenge of caregiving. Working in healthcare is both physically and emotionally taxing,” Nedkov says.
“It’s very hard because you take on so much of everybody else’s emotion and pain all day long, that when you come home you are exhausted and don’t have time to do the things that make you happy. You don’t have time to reflect on or take care of yourself. That’s why it’s so important to put your oxygen mask on first before putting on anyone else’s. If your tank is empty, it is very difficult to give, and that’s what healthcare workers do, they give all day,” says Millar.
Both Nedkov and Millar stress the importance of diet, exercise, meditation and sleep as the most important forms of self care. Taking time to pause, breathe and reflect during the work day can prevent overwhelm. Making small, gradual changes in these categories can lead to optimal performance both in and out of the workplace.
“Self care is critical for healthcare workers in order to perform at the highest level every day and also have energy for their families when they leave work,” says Nedkov. “If our primary focus is Exemplary Patient Experiences, Always, we have to make sure we are caring for ourselves just as we care for our patients.”