Prioritizing Self-Care in Healthcare 

self-care in healthcare

Physicians and other healthcare professionals are trained to care for others. It’s what we do. In dedicating our lives to caring for others, self-care comes last, and we often put ourselves on the back burner. During training, and in our careers, the default mode is that our own needs come last. That’s embedded into our medical culture.  

What if we shifted our focus and treated ourselves as well as we treat those who we love most in the world? How would that shift our decisions and priorities? 

We often hear from our physician and healthcare clients, “I know I need to make more time to take care of myself, but how would I find the time, and besides, that feels selfish. There are so many people who rely on me between my patients and my family. I spend all of my time taking care of other people and have no time left for myself.”  

Creating the space to care for yourself can feel a little bit like you’re crossing a line, like, Is this really okay? 

We as human beings are designed to serve and yet we are also designed to need to have energy and focus on our mental and physical wellness in order to be of service. When the scales are tipped really far in the direction of “I shouldn’t value spending my time on something unless it’s in service to somebody else,” that means that probably not enough attention is being applied to what needs to happen for us as individual human beings in order to sustain ourselves, and thus sustain our service to others. 

If you find yourself identifying with these thoughts, are you inadvertently determining that you are not worthy of the same level of care as others? When you recognize how important it is for us as human beings to receive good care, it becomes clear that you need good care, too. Of course it’s obvious when you look at it from this perspective. Prioritizing your own needs aligns with your values when your ultimate goal is to help others.   

When we realize that prioritizing our own care is not a zero-sum game at all, and must be intentionally built into even the busiest schedule, we can begin to see an important shift.  

What are your needs? Set a timer for two minutes and jot down a list of your basic needs, and put a star next to those that help you to thrive. Then, throughout the day, reflect on patterns in your everyday life. Which patterns align with serving those needs on your list? What patterns do you notice that are not serving your needs? Try to focus on actions that align with serving your needs while noticing and avoiding patterns that do not serve your needs, and see how this simple new awareness can shift you in a positive direction this week. 

docworking logoPlease check us out at to learn how you can maximize your potential and live your best life on your own terms, while rekindling the purpose that brought you to the important work you do in healthcare. 



Meet the Author: Jen Barna MD, CEO 

Jen Barna MD is founder and CEO of DocWorking, a company that helps physicians and other healthcare professionals maximize meaning and purpose in life both in and outside of work, by combining expert coaching, peer support communities, and highly interactive courses that have maximum impact using minimal time. Dr. Barna is the co-host of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast, now ranked as a top physician podcast. She is a board certified practicing radiologist, and the mom of two successful young adults, both born while she was a medical student. She started DocWorking to help physicians stay in the driver’s seat of their own lives. 

Meet the Author: Master Certified Lead DocWorking Coach Jill Farmer 

Jill Farmer is the Lead Coach at DocWorking—a company focused on helping physicians thrive. Jill’s expertise has been featured everywhere from The Washington Post to Inc. Magazine. She travels the U.S. delivering keynotes and teaching her acclaimed programs at top healthcare organizations. Jill is the co-host of the top-rated podcast DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast with over 18,500 physician listeners. She was an Emmy Award winning TV journalist who is now a master certified time and stress management coach specializing in supporting physicians since 2010.  

The writing staff at BoardVitals is passionate about medicine, healthcare, and education. We’ve trained over 1.5 million physicians and work with more than 300 top teaching institutions. Learn more about our board review and continuing education products at

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