Self-care is Quality Care

Posted on October 12, 2018

Self-care is Quality Care

What’s in a title? About 5-years ago I was asked to do a self-care pre-conference at the National Health Care for the Homeless Council’s Annual Conference. I was working with one of their great staff, Juli Hishida, on the topics and title for our day-long session. She came up with the brilliant title Self-care is Quality Care, and ever since I have used it for most of my self-care workshops and trainings.

What Juli stated, in just a few words, summarized my decade-plus search for best practices in self-care in the helping professions. Burnout, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and secondary trauma can harm physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health in ways that dramatically decrease the quality of services we provide. In the era of best practices, data-driven outcomes, and quality improvement we too often miss the greatest predictor of success for those we serve:  whether the workers are healthy, engaged, and able to bring their best to their work each and every day.

Self-care is Quality Care reminds us, if we are going to do this difficult work we must TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES FIRST! I am the first to admit, during stretches of my career, I did not serve as a great example of self-care. Looking back at myself through the lens of all my research, I clearly see how stress and the trauma of the work impacted me personally and professionally. I know that during the low times I couldn’t give my best to the staff I supervised, our clients, and those in my personal life.

In some ways, I was lucky in that my unhealthy stretches were short and I recovered pretty quickly. Doing my first self-care training 15 years ago, I started to challenge myself to become a role model of self-care for those in my trainings. I realized pretty quickly that just as I try to role model the health and wellness I discuss in my trainings, we all serve as role models of mental, social, physical, and spiritual health for those we serve. Our health sets the stage for our work of healing and hope.

Take care of yourself my friends!

2 responses to “Self-care is Quality Care”

  1. Melissa Data says:

    For all sorts of reasons, both personal and professional, I truly appreciated the inclusion of “Self-Care is Quality Care” at the training you provided for our community health staff and providers in Hawaii. When I was in graduate school, a classmate and professor were researching secondary traumatic stress. I scoffed. “I’m a social worker,” I thought, “I cannot complain about my life when my clients struggle with so much more.” Fast forward to the present, and I am not only a believer in self-care and addressing vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue, but I have also had to make very significant changes in my own life so that I can be the best version of myself possible. Four years ago, I was on the verge of burnout. That was the last time I was able to practice as a clinician. I no longer think it’s selfish to put myself first. I know now that I cannot pour into others if my glass is empty. It’s a journey for sure, and I am slowly building myself back up and finding more balance in my life. Thanks for the reminder that we must always place value on our own wellness.

    • Matthew Bennett says:

      Thanks for sharing my friend! So many great memories from my trip and training with you all. I thought burnout (we weren’t talking about trauma when I was in grad school) was for weak people. Well…a few months into my career, I was toast for a bunch of reasons but many because I didn’t think it could happen to me. Acknowledging we are at risk helps set our priorities and keeps self-care and quality connected in our minds.

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