Faculty / Staff Resources Student Resources
University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Wake Up Call


April 9, 2020
by Catherine

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Last week, I wasn’t feeling so great. It may have been the constant news being consumed or the overall sense of anxiety that has accompanied the new norm. While the rationale part of me knew that it was very unlikely that I had been infected with COVID-19, the wave of “what ifs” and leaps of the imagination to the worst case scenarios could not be stopped. Long story short, after some rest, extra fluids and time away from the news, felt better. It was my body telling me that I needed to slow down. The unforeseeable changes and disruptions in my daily occupations had challenged my wellbeing and had created unfamiliar reactions.

As an OT, my tool box is filled with strategies and interventions to help others, my focus had been on making sure my family and friends were adjusting the best way possible. I was not being mindful of my own needs, and as a result had burned out. Caregiver and provider burnout has been a topic of discussion throughout the master’s and clinical doctorate programs. Managing a household, residency and school assignments, from the same physical space has forced me to wear multiple hats at once. In the beginning, like many others, I jumped into action, trying to provide a safe environment for my family to cope. In the process, forgetting about myself.

Ironically, I had researched and developed a program during my Level 2 fieldwork, to provide providers in a hospital setting, strategies to respond to the state of vital exhaustion that was caused by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and the overall decreased sense of personal accomplishment. Now more than ever, the current pandemic has created a constant state of fight or flight adrenaline rushes in our communities, to our healthcare frontline workers and other positions of essential service providers, and to our individual selves.

Best practice recommendations include initiating a wellness audit of the workplace, where the leadership would support the team of care providers in identifying sources, providing education and resources, and encouraging team members to express needs and set SMART goals to promote work life balance. Evidence also supports that in times of burnout, being mindful of our core values helps us stay grounded and motivated towards our personal and professional goals in difficult times. I have seen that many of my colleagues who enter healthcare professions share a common passion of helping others, empowering them to thrive in their everyday lives. But in times like these, I want to remind us all that we not only should be compassionate to the needs of others, but our own as well.

On that note, I would like to share some occupations that are important to me and have helped me re-calibrate and stay grounded.

Also, if you are willing and able, I invite you to help out our frontline healthcare and essential workers in your area. If you are in the LA area, and would like to help out our frontline workers at Keck, please visit this website. Together we will fight on!