Boosting Wellness Among Children's Residents

Art, walks and encouragement help keep spirits high.

Several years ago, the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta partnered to launch a resident wellness initiative. With this expansion of our Physician Wellness Program, residents gained access to resources that help them balance physical, emotional and social well-being.

Recently, a group of residents participated in an art project with artists from Emory. The goal of the project, using alcohol inks, was to practice mindfulness and enter “flow state.” Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes flow state as “a heightened focus and complete immersion in the activity.” Flow state calms the mind, enhances focus and calls forth unrealized creativity—all traits that a physician can use during a busy day filled with constant distractions and stimulation.

Brianna Glover, MD, a chief resident in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory, participated in the art workshop to step away, eat lunch and paint. Dr. Glover says the experience was mind-clearing, as intended by artist and project creator Rachel Wittenberg, Associate Volunteer Coordinator at Children’s. Project participants used different colors and techniques, such as using a simple dropper or blowing through straws, to create abstract shapes.

“It was interesting how the art came together despite being overall unplannable, which I think was great for us physicians who tend to overthink every single move,” Dr. Glover says. “One of the main things I took away from the art project was that it’s sometimes OK to let go, not plan every single second, and still have a beautiful result in the end.”

A wellness devotee, Dr. Glover tries to keep resident wellness and morale high with frequent smiles, encouragement and positive vibes. “When I’m on nights, we take wellness walks in the mornings after we have signed out our patients to the day team before we have our morning report. During the day, it is mostly quick things like treating the team to popsicles or candy,” she says.

“I think wellness is important for residents to provide the best patient care. When you are in a good mental space, I find it is much easier to connect to patients and their families. There’s a desire to bring joy and sometimes simply comfort to your patients, which definitely occurs at a higher rate when we can find joy in the work we are doing.”

To learn more about the Physician Wellness Program at Children’s, contact Kathleen Smith.

By Anthony Cooley, MD

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