Take A Personalized Approach to Wellness

From January 22 through January 28, 2017, the American College of Emergency Medicine (ACEP) will be hosting its annual Emergency Medicine Wellness Week, a national effort intended to promote and celebrate the value of physician wellness in our specialty. As part of this effort, the CORD Resilience Committee has created a two-part series of blog posts highlighting wellness and resilience.


Part I: Take A Personalized Approach to Wellness

Melissa A. Marinelli, MD

Attending Physician

Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, Park Ridge, IL

Wellness Coordinator

University of Illinois at Chicago EM Residency Program

In his book, “The Five Love Languages,” Gary Chapman offers his views on relationship success. While I certainly wouldn’t claim that the connection to the CORD blog would be entirely clear at first, the concept may, in fact, have some relevance to developing a residency wellness program.


The basic premise of the book is that it is fundamental to successful relationships to recognize one’s so-called love language (with examples being receiving gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, and acts of service) and then have the most important person in one’s life also recognize it and use it to communicate. And still, you’re probably thinking, so what does this have to do with resident wellness?


Interestingly enough, I was reminded of this concept while at the ACEP Wellness Section Meeting in Las Vegas last fall. As part of the meeting, each attendee offered an example of what he or she does to maintain wellness. Responses had a number of common themes, but varied highly based on geography, stage of life and career, family dynamics, and even degree of enthusiasm for pets.


Many people at the Section Meeting echoed the sentiments of prior CORD posts, that key aspects of wellness are rooted in physical activity, personal relationships, nutritional food, and the pursuit of non-medical interests. Of course, the details of these range from meditation to marathon running, dating to raising teenagers, and every permutation of what life can look like between. It’s only by knowing one’s own individual wellness language that each of us can correctly prioritize and take care of our needs.


The personal nature that is so fundamental to wellness makes it challenging to design and implement an effective wellness program within a residency. There is no perfect blueprint for residency wellness programs because each resident and each program vary so widely in their personality and needs. Accordingly, imposing ideas about wellness from the top-down can be a strategy that fails to reach all residents.


The accelerated emphasis on wellness at a national level, however, clearly works to our advantage. New ideas about wellness and how to help residents to explore and ultimately achieve it are constantly surfacing, hopefully helping us to find a way to reach all of our residents.


For our residency, this is taking shape in the form of an increased emphasis on mentorship, provision of resiliency tools like Five Minute Journals, and an evolving approach to incorporating on-shift wellness, with an element of relying on residents to help us to understand what they need as individuals and as a group.


The metaphor of crowd-sourcing seems apt, as it is likely through engaging our residents that we will be able to develop evolving, dynamic resident wellness programs that will speak to them in their language, providing the space and tools for individual expressions of wellness that will arm our residents for long and healthy careers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s