What Happens When Doctors Don’t Take Care of Themselves?

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Doctors and nurses are always telling patients to exercise, eat better, and live healthier lives. But the irony there is that the hours and stress of the medical profession mean that doctors often find themselves grabbing fast food, skimping on sleep, and wearing themselves down.
“It can be easy after a long day of work, say a 12-hour shift, to head to that drive-through for a burger, fries, and a Coke,” Tam Nguyen, who works at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, told the Hopkins Gazette. Realizing her own habits were getting out of line with what she recommends to patients at the school’s Center of Excellence for Cardiovascular Health for Vulnerable Populations (which she manages), Nguyen became one of hundreds of Hopkins employees to sign the Patient Promise.

Signers of the Patient Promise pledge to lead by example by exercising regularly, eating balanced and healthful meals, and avoiding harmful substances. The idea was dreamed up by second-year medical student Shiv Gaglani, who was a triathlete and healthy eater — until he started medical school, that is. It took a course on obesity and nutrition to make him realize that he had to pay attention to his own health, along with that of his patients. “We found a good deal of evidence that clinicians who promote their own healthy personal behaviors are more likely to encourage patients to do the same, and have their clinical practice improve,” he told the Gazette.

Since the Promise went live this summer, several medical students have lost 30+ pounds, while others have quit smoking or taken up Zumba.

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