From the Trenches

Fariha Shafi, MD, FACP, Missouri Well-being Champion and Wellness Committee Co-Chair

It has been a challenging year so far. The struggle is unending, especially now that we also must explain how we did not label patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis to make an extra dollar. We continue to put our lives and our families at risk though. As Joe Biden would say, “COME ON!”

The country has elected its next president; however, the issues that physicians face will not change with the man in the White House. Whether we are fighting insurance plans, paperwork, the middleman, etc., it is going to take a while for our health care system to become functional, effective, and fruitful. In the meantime, the moral injury and burnout will continue.

What this pandemic taught me is that I have control on very specific aspects of my life, and I cannot let the rest stress me out unendingly. For most of us in the trenches, we are seeing hospitals at full or near-full capacity and emergency plans being formulated, and are reading like we are back in medical school, trying to gain all the knowledge possible to save our next patient. While we await the vaccines that are our ticket to normalcy, we do have to try to focus on our well-being now more than ever!

No matter how poorly we are painted, we still put that PPE on and help every single person who walks through our doors. So, as a Well-being Champion, I must make sure that I am in a state to do that. Remember that we must put the oxygen mask on us before we help others.

At Missouri ACP, the Well-being team is dedicated to keeping our membership engaged and healthy. While we cannot have our in-person pick-me-ups, we have collaborated with other ACP chapters and continue to learn from each other. Early on, virtual community check-ins were a means of ensuring all were well and alive. Virtual happy hours helped a lot at the end of a tiresome day. We loved seeing each other's mask-marked and swollen faces. They were beautiful! It was not the same as an in-person meet-up, but it was our safe space to share our joys, sorrows, good and bad outcomes. We shared many feelings. Yes, even the men!

If your chapter struggles with keeping people engaged on social media, you are not alone. What I realized was that Kim Kardashian deserves to make all that money. I mean, she probably has carpal tunnel from having to be on the phone constantly, engaging and influencing people. Our chapter's equivalent is our amazing Sarah Luebbert, who helped me breathe life into the idea of weekly check-ins with the “Sharing Our Stories Through Pictures” campaign. The first week was dedicated to our pets, who give us joy and unconditional love. The next ones are focused on our favorite take-away foods, our favorite unwinding drinks, songs that we listen to when we are angry or sad, and books that we want to share with others. We will also be starting Meet-a-Member Mondays and Thankful Thursdays. Celebrating the accomplishments of our membership is important to us. We continue to do that on Twitter and Facebook, and maybe someday we will make it to Instagram! The world exists because there is hope, so I am not giving up yet!

Our newsletter dedicates a section to wellness, and I have consistently contributed to writing articles and blogs for it. The committee wants to empower everyone to share his or her thoughts and ideas that will allow us to be more innovative. It has been cathartic for me, and so many friends, students, residents, and peers have reached out, appreciating that we have a space for expression.

Our Women in Medicine group also contributes to the programming. For so many of us, raising families has been complicated by virtual education, lack of adequate child care, quarantines, etc. To have a forum to share our struggles and to learn from each other while finding solutions is wonderful. We all have different roles and presence in our personal and professional lives. Using these to help others in the trenches is the best use of that privilege. Most ACP chapters work with other local medical societies. Figuring out how to impact that change while being efficient is important. I ended up leading a white paper on safe school openings with the most amazing group in the Kansas City Medical Society. That was a productive outlet for our burnout!

One of my mentors always says, “If done well, burnout can lead to empowerment and a better life!” At the Missouri ACP Chapter, that is our goal, and having the most supportive leadership just makes it that much more achievable.

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Back to the November 20, 2020 issue of ACP IM Thriving