Put Your Oxygen Mask on before Helping Others: The Importance of Wellness

December 2020/January 2021 – Vol. 39, No. 11

Before taking off in an airplane, we have all heard this all-too-familiar safety message: a reminder to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. As caregivers, we give much of ourselves to ensure the well-being of our patients. Our profession can bring stress. We bear witness to human suffering. The hours are long. Sometimes we wish we could offer more to patients and families who suffer from conditions when we do not have all the answers and cannot offer a cure. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we also may be putting ourselves in harm’s way as we offer life-saving care and treatment to those afflicted.

Carol R. Bradford, MD, MS
AAO-HNS/F President

It is well recognized that the complexities and stress of the healthcare environment can compromise the well-being of the workforce. Further, we, as clinicians, are subject to increasingly time-consuming administrative activities. It can, at times, be more difficult to maintain a healthy work-life integration. Burnout and other mental and physical health concerns can be a direct result of these challenges.

One of my primary initiatives as your President is to focus on how to foster the wellness of our community. Dr. Dana Thompson is leading the work group focusing on wellness initiatives as part of our 125th Anniversary Giving Campaign, “Shaping Our Future Together: 125 Strong Campaign.” She, along with colleagues, will bring forward recommendations about what we, as a society, can do to foster the health and wellness of our members. There are a number of strategies that we can consider. These include:

  • Finding meaning and purpose in our work
  • Using our vacation time
  • Paying attention to our health
  • Incorporating a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise into our routines
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Developing and utilizing a robust social support network
  • Engaging in hobbies, which can be very therapeutic
  • Nurture the spiritual aspects of our lives

The pandemic has resulted in tremendous social isolation as well as financial challenges. Further, COVID-19 has highlighted health disparities within our society. Many people, including our patients, are experiencing increased fear and anxiety. Never has a clearer focus on the importance of wellness been more important. I encourage each of us to reach out to a colleague, a family member, or a friend. It may not be apparent, but they may be feeling stressed, unwell, or could simply use a helping hand. I encourage us all to offer words of support and a listening ear to colleagues, friends, and families. We all need each other to get through these challenging times.