Professionalism, Ethical Obligations, and the Moral Imperative of Self-Care
Healthcare providers are inevitably called to participate in and bear witness to emotionally challenging cases. Combined with time constraints, competing responsibilities, the urgent nature of these cases, healthcare providers risk burnout. The consequences of burnout have been shown to be increased staff turnover, substandard patient outcomes and increased likelihood for errors. As part of competent clinical practice, healthcare providers must not only attend to the needs of the patient and family but also themselves. However, a tension exists between making enough time for patients and taking enough time for oneself. But, engaging in self-care activities can help address clinician distress; this practice is essential for remaining compassionate, providing competent patient care services, and avoiding harm. Healthcare providers, therefore, have an ethical duty to engage in personal self-care. This presentation makes a case for why self-care is a key component of competent clinical practice. Several ways in which a lack of self-care can undermine professional competence, thus risking burnout and poor patient outcomes, are discussed. Strategies for recognizing and addressing burnout are also reviewed.