Self-Care Is Primary Care

Kula for Karma has been operating programs in hospitals since we first began offering therapeutic yoga to patients, 11 years ago. One of the most alarming trends we've observed in more than a decade of working in clinical settings is the rise in stress, burnout, depression, and suicide among physicians, medical residents, nurses, and other caregivers.

As a result, we began to turn our focus to offer therapeutic yoga, mindfulness, and stress-reduction classes not only to patients but also to the medical personnel who care for them. And the demand we've seen for this offering has been growing exponentially.

 Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash.

Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash.

Stress and burnout can lead to preventable medical errors and patient deaths, and they can spiral into a depression that's all too common among doctors but rarely spoken about because of the prevailing culture within medical institutions.

In an article published on July 12 in Thrive magazine, Arianna Huffington noted that "Almost two-thirds of doctors in the U.S. say they're burned out, depressed, or both." And according to a study in The Lancet, the suicide rate among physicians is more than double that of the general population. A report published by ABC News puts the figure for physician suicides much higher, at three to five times the rate of the general population.

That's a statistic—and a reality—that we, as a society, cannot afford to look away from, or avoid talking about. This is a public health crisis hiding within our very health institutions, affecting everyone, medical personnel and patients alike.

Fortunately, there is growing awareness among hospital administrators, doctors, and chief medical officers that medical personnel need to practice regular self-care in order to prevent burnout, manage stress, and be able to adequately care for patients. One tool that hospitals can offer to their staff to help them practice self-care is therapeutic yoga and mindfulness.

Kula for Karma is on the leading edge of these hospital-based programs for caregivers, with three additional programs starting up this summer at leading hospitals in New York City and Miami, and numerous other programs in the works.

These weekly classes are not for hospital patients but exclusively for doctors, medical residents, nurses, and other hospital staff. Therapeutic movement and stretching, mindfulness, breath work, and other forms of relaxation are taught to help medical personnel learn to regulate their stress levels and cope better with the enormous challenges they face on the job.

Clearly, there is an enormous cultural change that needs to take place within medical institutions in order to better care for the professionals who care for the rest of us. As everyone who's ever flown on a plane knows, "put your own oxygen mask on before you try to help someone else." Doctors and other medical personnel need to practice self-care, for their own benefit first of all, but also for the benefit of every patient they see.

Physician, heal thyself! Kula for Karma is here to help.

 

Dennis Hunter
Marketing Director
Kula for Karma
dennis@kulaforkarma.org