• Personal Wellness Is the First Line of Defense Against COVID-19

    Webster’s dictionary defines wellness as “the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought activity” implying that wellness is not something that happens by accident.  Wellness requires commitment and effort.

    In healthcare and specifically within the field of anesthesia, provider wellness has traditionally focused on prevention of or recovery from substance abuse, depression, and suicide.  Residents and CRNAs alike are taught the dangers of drug diversion and given resources to help address stress related issues.  After graduation, professional organizations offer support through wellness pages on their respective web sites.  Click here for AANA peer assistance and click here for ASA peer assistance.

    COVID-19 and provider wellness

    The emergence of COVID-19 as a world pandemic expanded the scope of anesthesia provider wellness initiatives.  Early in the epidemic, data indicated that people with coexisting diseases were at greatest risk for hospitalization and death. Specifically, the CDC lists diabetes, hypertension, obesity, smoking and immunosuppression as conditions that increase the risk of poor outcome should the individual become infected with the virus.  In response, wellness programs originally designed to address drug diversion, depression, and suicide, have taken on new importance with an emphasis on strengthening the body by promoting healthy lifestyle choices.  The AANA, State associations, and proactive employers recognize the impact that wellness makes on personal health as the first line of defense against COVID and encourage activities that calm the mind and strengthen the body.

    Be active, Be well

    If you are fit, kudos to you.  Make a commitment never to lose your current level of fitness and plan activities to maintain your health.  However, if you are like many people who are out of shape and have coexisting disease, regaining health can seem daunting, especially after years of sedentary lifestyle.  Regaining health starts by making a personal COMMITMENT to increase activity, control the diet, and develop a positive expectation that effort will be rewarded.  Start your journey on the road to improved heath by developing a reasonable and attainable PLAN.  Locate an online workout program, hire a personal trainer, or incorporate new activities into your schedule and get the ball rolling. Enlist a friend or join a group of coworkers to share your new activity, and to benefit from a support system that includes accountability for staying the course.

    Your personal wellness program can be as simple as walking around the block, substituting water for carbonated drinks and eating nutritious snacks.   At first, lifestyle changes will be something you do and over time they will become an essential part of your day.  Select something that you enjoy, link with an exercise buddy, and get moving.  Remember and repeat:  Wellness is more than what I do.  It’s who I am.

    Walk or run   All you need is a good pair of shoes and the desire to get moving.  Start with a short walk and add distance as your endurance improves.  Numerous apps are available to track your activity, to suggest routes and to connect you with other walkers.  Strava, Map My Walk, and Footpath are three of many options.  Make it a year-round activity; bundle up in the winter and strip down in the summer, but keep moving.  Walk daily and consider joining a walking group to meet new friends and enjoy the camaraderie.  If you are a runner, you will cover more distance in less time, but the same tips apply.  Commit to a local 5K or 10K walk/run and enjoy the exercise as you work up to the full distance.  Share your plan with colleagues and motivate them to join you.

    Cycling In addition to being a great cardiovascular workout, cycling allows you to enjoy the scenery while you hone your senses of vision, hearing, and balance.  Invite a co-worker to join you or tag along with a local cycling club.  If you are not comfortable riding in traffic, city and state parks offer quieter places to ride.  Designated hike/bike trails are being developed across the nation spearheaded by the Rails to trails Conservancy.  Routes can easily be found on the Trail Link app, and apps such as Strava and Ride with GPS will record your ride data.  Set a goal to complete an event ride and join other anesthesia providers who will participate in the Erie Canal bicycle ride, July 2022.  Click here for information about the event.

    Hiking   Although this requires more preparation than walking around the block, hiking is a great outdoor experience.  State parks abound across the country and offer hiking trails rated from easy to difficult, and the all trails app will help you locate hiking routes in your area.  Whether hiking around a lake or up the side of a mountain, being surrounded by fresh air and wildlife lifts the spirit and makes exercise fun and enjoyable.  Take hiking to the next level and build up to a European hiking event.  The 10 day  trek around Mount Blanc is well known and a worthy route for your bucket list.

    Swimming   This is a fantastic no impact activity for those who have access to a lap pool.   Instead of completing a set distance, start by swimming for a designated time.  Swim 3-5 minutes, rest for 1 full minute and repeat.  As you become stronger, increase the time spent swimming, and reduce the resting time.  My Swim Pro and Swim.com apps will track your progress and for those who want tips on swimming form, the Swim Coach app provides useful tips.   If you are up for a challenge, combine swimming with biking and running and complete a local triathlon.

    Water aerobics is a great low impact, high resistance activity for those who are not lap swimmers but love to get wet.  A gym or YMCA with a pool will likely have water aerobics classes that you can join.  If you have a pool at home, the Pool Fit app will coach you through water exercises, poolside.

    Court activities Basketball, volleyball, and tennis are group activities that are readily available in most communities.  Pickleball is the new kid on the block and has quickly become the fastest growing sport in America.  What was initially nicknamed “tennis for old people” has become a magnet for exercising and socializing and enjoyed by active people of all ages.  Regardless of the sport you select, engage friends to join you in pick-up games or join a league.  If you have colleagues who enjoy the same activity, form a team, and enter local competition.

    Join a fitness club.   In most communities, gyms have re-opened following the COVID shutdown and patrons challenge themselves with weightlifting, cardio, yoga, and Pilates.   Many gym rats who were shut out during the COVID closure opted to set up a home gym and continue to pump iron on demand in the basement.  Personal trainers are available at public gyms and many will come to your home for personal workout sessions.  Apps are plentiful for in-home workouts.  Fitness buddy and Jefit workout planner are apps that put a personal trainer in your pocket.

    Combating COVID involves more than receiving a vaccination and wearing a mask.  It involves developing a fit body and strong immune system which serve as important barriers to the dreaded virus. Activities that strengthen muscles and stimulate the cardiovascular system will reduce coexisting disease, reduce the need for medications, and form a solid foundation for a healthy mind and body.  Nutrition, sleep, and a positive attitude are additional keys to overall wellness.  Commit to a lifestyle change and then get up, get going and get out the door.  Personal wellness is the big umbrella that covers us from the fallout of COVID-19.

    If you are in a leadership position at any level, inspire your team to make wellness a priority.  Create group activities and encourage your team to participate.

    Tom S. Davis, DNAP, CRNA, MAE, is the former Chief of the Division of Nurse Anesthesia at The Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and former Chief CRNA at (Baylor) Scott and White, Main OR in Temple, TX. Col. Davis, USAF (Ret.), is well-known throughout the Nurse Anesthesia community for his leadership in clinical anesthesia, including developing the first distance education model while on the graduate faculty at Kansas University Medical Center. Recognized for his expertise in team-building across department lines, Tom is a sought-after speaker, educator, author, and leadership trainer. Follow @procrnatom on Twitter.

    Drug or Alcohol Concerns?

    Call the AANA Peer Assistance Helpline