Well-being in health care professionals
“PHPEP” is promoting a new culture in our health care system based on attention to wellbeing of our health care professionals and creation of patient experience. These elements are interconnected and enhance each other. However, we cannot expect creating remarkable patient experiences with exhausted, burnout health professionals in our stressful medical environment. It demands full attention and effort to improve the well-being of our health professionals and creating a culture which provide the necessary platform and opportunity for flourishing. This revolutionary change in our health care system will require time and personal and institutional commitment and effort.
But how do we define well-being? Wellbeing is a combination of positive emotions and overall sense of satisfaction and contentment in all aspects of our lives. It has diverse but interconnected physical, mental, social, economic and environmental dimensions. It is a subjective experience which human species are constantly pursuing. Most cultures promote pursuit of money, fame, material possessions, health and power as the fundamentals for happiness. But it is not always about pleasure and wealth. Scientists such as Dr. Martin Seligman and Dr. Felicia Huppert introduced a series of elements necessary for well-being. These elements are:
- Positive emotions
- Good relationships
- Emotional stability
There are also many variables in well-being that need to be considered such as:
- Well-being is a feeling that relates to how the individual experience his or her life. Therefore, it means and matters differently in different individuals, cultures, environment and age group.
- Well-being is more long term sense of contentment in life including feeling good and functioning efficaciously.
- Well-being can be measured, learned, taught and nourished.
- Well-being is a skill that requires exercise.
- Well-being is a choice and demands individual responsibility.
There are three elements that could determine our happiness. First is genetics which usually is responsible for formation of a set point or baseline of happiness within us and account for 50% of how happy we feel. The other factor is life circumstances which account for 10% of our happiness. We tend to overestimate the importance of life circumstances in how much they could make us happy. Human species are very good at adapting to changes in life circumstances and returning to the set point. The last element responsible for 40% of our happiness is our own choices. In the contrary, we underestimate how much control we have over our own happiness. In reality, our brain has the ability to be more positive and optimistic by training which place the main responsibility of well-being on our shoulder.
Modern scientific discoveries over last 2 decades have allowed us to understand the role of personal responsibility in cultivating the well-being. These discoveries are:
The neuroplasticity is defined as the capacity of nerve cells in the brain to modify their activity and their connections in response to stimulation such as physical experiences, thoughts and training. Therefore, the brain could generate new neural pathways in response to repetitive practices to nourish the well-being.
Epigenetic scientists have demonstrated that external or environmental factors have the potential to turn genes on and off without any changes in the DNA sequence. DNA methylation and histone modification are some of the mechanisms for gene expression without any changes in DNA sequence. These epigenetic changes may last through cell’s life or even for multiple generations. Therefore promotion of wellbeing may have the potential to change the way our genes express themselves.
- Mind- Body connection:
Many scientific studies have demonstrated mind and body interconnection. What goes on in your mind, what you think and how you feel directly impacts your body.The brain regulates the biological systems and therefore changes in brain can generate alterations in the body and any alterations in our body also has the potential to impact our mind. That is why high level of wellbeing is associated with better physical health.
All these breakthrough scientific discoveries affirm the potential for our ability to cultivate our mind towards flourishing in life. In our health care system, one of the most important element is changing our mindset and recognizing the sacred value of health profession as the main purpose and embracing the remarkable opportunity to engage in care of others, create connection and practice the essence of humanity. The daily exercises of these practices would gradually build character and also institute the new culture of care in our health care system.