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Self Awareness Pillar #1 in the Resilience Rx Framework™

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

Rabbi Hillel

Such famous prose is not part of the Hippocratic Oath but perhaps it ought to be. Here’s why: healthcare practitioners lack self-awareness and the permission to take care of themselves.

Such self-awareness is essential for developing empathy, which is fundamental to the practice of medicine and key to patient satisfaction.  

“If I am not for others, what am I?”  reads the second part of Rabbi Hillel’s quote. 

Put another way, if we do not show empathy for our patients, then what are we as healthcare providers?

First things first. In order to be better caretakers, practitioners have to be able to care for themselves. Doing so strengthens our emotional intelligence (EQ) and resilience, which are inextricably linked. Resilience, you see, is about building a trusting, conscious, respectful relationship with ourselves. It isn’t about navigating external factors. Resilience is forged from within and both activated and supported by high EQ.

Advancing emotional intelligence in healthcare is slowly beginning to shift from the back burner in medical school settings, and today’s hospitals and healthcare groups must take note. The fact that suicide rates among doctors is the highest among any profession can no longer be ignored. Burnout is real and requires a more intentional, self-reflective approach than simply attending a weekly meditation or yoga class or taking a few extra days of vacation. These are mere band-aids.  Real self-awareness needs to be enduring, and happens only when physicians, leaders, and healthcare teams recognize how understanding and valuing themselves allows them to be more caring, skilled, satisfied providers (and individuals).

Self-awareness is the most critical of the EQ skills. It’s so important for job performance that 83 percent of people high in EQ are top performers while just two percent of bottom performers are high in EQ.*  Since self-awareness is also the key driver of resilience, those high in EQ are bound to be more resilient, while those with low EQ skills are less resilient on the job and in life.  

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Can you think of a time when self-awareness was critical for you?

Now, think of a time when you wish you’d practiced greater self-awareness. How might doing so have altered the outcome?

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Here are Four Ways that Self-Awareness Builds Resilience for Health Care Practitioners, Teams, and Institutions:

Permission. When we’re self-aware, we give ourselves permission to recognize our own suffering and to take care of others. It’s just as the airlines advise. We have to place the oxygen masks on ourselves first, before our children. This allows us to have the resilience and strength to take care of other people.

Self-Care. When we're self-aware, we take better care of our bodies and minds and we allow ourselves to take breaks when we need respite. By tending to our own needs, healthcare leaders are better equipped to deal with everyday stressors and frustrations. This frees us to be more empathetic and compassionate.   

Patience and Mindfulness. When we’re self-aware, we are patient with ourselves and others. This is because we are mindful. And mindfulness fosters self-acceptance and confidence, which deepens our interpersonal relationships.  

Strengths and limitations. Healthcare providers and teams are human with human feelings, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, fears, beliefs, judgements, and perceptions. When we are truly self-aware, we are able to look beyond the surface of our emotions and get to know ourselves. In so doing, we are less likely to turn to self-destructive behaviors like alcohol and drugs, because we become more comfortable accepting discomfort. We learn to be at peace with who we are—our  good and challenging attributes altogether.

Next week we’ll look at empathy, pillar #2 in The Resilience Framework.™

*Source – TalentSmart


Nancy Sharp is a keynote speaker, trainer, and award-winning author focused on resiliency in the workplace. She brings 30 years’ experience in the communications industry, along with expertise as a CEO speechwriter and coach. Nancy holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction and authored the bestselling memoir Both Sides Now: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Bold Living, recipient of the Colorado Book Award, and a book for children and families called Because the Sky is Everywhere. Learn more about Nancy’s programs and background at www.NancySharp.net or contact us at www.hspeakers.com.