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A Balanced Life

The Challenge of Modeling Wellness

Candice Rettie, PhD 0 46

Erene Stergiopoulos is an author, an educational researcher, a decade-long cancer patient and now a third-year medical student at the University of Toronto. She recently wrote about the cloak of superhuman invulnerability that is worn by many in the helping professions.  Erene expressed eloquently how experiencing life as a patient has informed her view of healthcare and had a positive impact on her role as a future provider.  She notes that in medical education, students learn about disease, but not what it’s like to live with disease.  

Illness can serve as a crucible reminding us of the gifts of human frailty – a capacity for compassion and empathy.  

In our roles as mentors, teachers and colleagues, let’s model maintaining good health.  When we are ill, take time to heal.  When we are exhausted, make time to rest.  When we need to be replenished spiritually, seek solace. When we haven’t connected with those we care for, remember that time past is time lost. Take your vacation time and encourage your trainees to do the same.  

Life Lessons Learned from Bird Watching

Patience, Persistence and Seizing the Moment

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Wildlife provides a frequent reminder of the virtues of practice, persistence, and seizing the moment. Fledgling purple martins fly in dance-like synchrony as they perfect their aeronautic skills.  In the span of one second, the blue heron shifts from prolonged and absolute stillness to a startling, almost invisible spearing of a hapless crab.   Simultaneously I witness demonstrations of beauty, patience, practice, precision, and expertise. 

On a daily basis, preceptors and trainees act with patience and model compassion in spirit, informed delivery of healthcare, and precision in action.  Trainees persist until it good practice becomes rote and can be activated immediately when needed – they develop the clinical ‘muscle memory’ skills to delivery competent healthcare upon demand.  The intent is to serve others with intelligence and competence, grace and dignity, tact and compassion.  

This is the time of year for transitions.  Purple martin fledglings fly.  Students graduate.  New residents prepare for their capstone year of professional polishing.  Novice nurse practitioners culminate their metamorphosis into confident practitioners.

 I’d like to remember and acknowledge the gift that nurse practitioners bring to healthcare.

“That’s how the light gets in”

Accreditation Shines a Light on Opportunities

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Sundials work when sunlight creates a shadow, thereby allowing us to tell time. Light and shadow are equally important.  Without the shadow, the sundial doesn’t work. Similarly, accreditation shines a light on what works, it is an overall indicator of excellence.  Equally important, accreditation is a mechanism for acknowledging the shadows -- identifying areas that are opportunities for creativity and innovation.  

Meaningful Conversations

The 3 C’s: Compassion, Confidence and Competence

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It doesn’t matter if one is negotiating an international peace agreement, meeting with organizational leadership, giving feedback to a preceptor, or offering suggestions to a novice trainee, the goal of communication is threefold: to advance the conversation, to hear and be heard accurately, and to have a functional exchange between the participants.  Especially with difficult conversations it is important to be compassionate, confident and competent. Combining the 3 C's with James Ryan's five seminal questions: “Wait, What?”  “I wonder…?”  “Couldn’t we at least…?” “How can I help?” “What truly matters?” can transform the training environment.  Think about how it could inspire meetings with preceptors, make mentoring in the clinic more meaningful, or foster innovative presentations in didactic sessions.   

Lessons from Gardening

Self Study: Aspirational Guide and Pragmatic Plan

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As I write this, the March nor’easter has just barely clipped DC on its blizzardly path up the Atlantic coast. Earlier in the week spring was everywhere.  Now it can't be found.  But I know it will be back. It is rarely a straightforward path from season to season.    

As I thought about the capricious spring weather, I remembered my evolution from dreaming about creating a compelling landscape to transforming our property into an ever-evolving expression of realistic beauty. I continue to learn about the dance of balancing the permanence of the land with the transience of the local environment and my skills as a gardener. What are the lessons learned that apply to an NP postgraduate program?  Continuity requires change. What are the commonalities between an amateur gardener's self study and that conducted for a postgraduate training program?  The self study process is emblematic of how to manage the paradoxical relationship between permanence and change.  The outcomes of thoughtfully conducted self studies provide guidance on managing the change process to support relevance and excellence, resulting in continuity, whether in a garden or in a postgraduate training program.   

Bottom line:  use the self study as an aspirational anchor and a pragmatic guide for documenting success and identifying areas for improvement.  Celebrate success.  Be inspired by failure.  Embrace the interconnection between permanence and change.


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