I am Dr. Kate Groner, Associate Medical Director: How I Stay Healthy in EM
Dr. Kate Groner is an emergency physician and Associate Medical Director from Newark, DE. When she’s not keeping busy in the department, she can be found participating in all sorts of different activities. Staying active with family and friends is an important part of how she stays well. Her advice on understanding our own limitations and taking each day, one at a time, it something we could all put into practice. Here’s how she stays healthy in EM!
- Name: Kate Groner, MD
- Location: Newark, DE
- Current job(s): Clinical EM Physician, Christiana Hospital ED Associate Medical Director, Academic Faculty
- One word that describes how you stay healthy: Teamwork
- Primary behavior/activity for destressing: Anything active
What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?
- Exercise. I try to get in a workout of some sort most days. It doesn’t always happen, which is OK, but I’m generally happier and better adjusted when I can workout. Some days this is rock climbing, some days it’s going for a run, and some days it’s rucking (a brisk walk or jog or a combination of the two with a weighted backpack on).
- Company. I have collected a variety of people to workout with me. I prefer to workout with company, so I have a collection of people who I can call, or who call me, to get out and do something. This helps me to be accountable to other people, helps push me past my perceived limits, and makes the workout more fun.
- Goals. Setting a goal. If I know I’ve got an event of some sort that will require me to be in shape for it, I have to keep working out so that I can get through it. I started doing this when I signed up for my first Spartan race (an outdoor obstacle race), and have added in GoRucks (endurance, team-building events), and travel to rock-climbing destinations. All of these are group or team events for me, which again means I have people to train with, and generally better friends by the time we’ve finished something.
What’s your ideal workout?
My ideal workout is a combination of endurance and strength training. Some days that’s running, some days it’s climbing, some days it’s rucking. There is something very relaxing about being outside, even when I’m pushing myself into a tough workout, so I try to get some outside time in for my workouts whenever possible. And always, my ideal workout is with friends.
Do you track your fitness? How?
Sort of. I tend to track my fitness by what I can achieve. Can I work on a higher grade of climbing problems? Can I make it up that hill that kicks my butt? I give myself goals and measure my fitness by how hard it was to achieve them (or recover from them). The goals that give me fitness direction are usually events of some sort. I have done a couple of GoRuck events and a couple of Spartan races every year. Having a set date/event I need to be ready for keeps me motivated, and my goal for each is to do better than I did the last time.
How do you prepare for a night shift? How do you recover from one?
If I can take a couple hours the afternoon before a night shift to get in a good workout, like climbing for a few hours or a long run, that helps wear me out and then I can take a nap for a few hours before work. The day after a night shift (or at the end of a string of night shifts), I sleep for 3-4 hours and then get up and again, do something physical: climbing, rucking because it’s pretty easy to just walk, or even just yard work. And only one cup of coffee right after I wake up. Then I can sleep that night and get back to a more day-time schedule.
How do you avoid getting “hangry” (angry due to hunger) on shift?
I live off cheese and crackers, hummus, fruit, or anything else that can be bite-sized so I can take a bite and then put it away. I rarely take the time to leave the Department to have a full meal, but if I can snack periodically, I’m pretty happy. I try to make sure the snacks have some protein in them, just so they’re more filling.
How do you ensure you are mentally in check?
I have a couple of ways to keep tabs on how I’m doing. First is monitoring how short my fuse is. If I find myself getting frustrated with things that are really quite minor, it’s a good indicator that I need to give myself a mental break – get in that run that I have missed for the last few days, or give myself permission to sleep in a little longer tomorrow. I have an excellent group of colleagues who will not hesitate to support me in a decision to do just that when I need it. I am fortunate enough to have a very tolerant husband who is good at letting me know that I need to set aside a little non-work time every now and then.
What are the biggest challenges you face in maintaining a longstanding career in EM? How do you address these challenges?
I have a tendency to want to do everything, so I have to make sure that I’m managing my time enough not to over-commit myself. Learning my own wavelength to deal with new projects is something I think I will work on for the rest of my career, but acknowledging that I don’t have an infinite wavelength is important for making sure that career is long. I am passionate about all aspects of my career – clinical, administrative, and academic, but I’m much better at all of them when I can also take a little time for myself.
Along the same lines, I have learned to work in my team. Just like I can get in a better workout when I’ve got company, I thrive off the energy of a good clinical team in a tough shift or an enthusiastic team tackling an administrative problem. I’m happy to work hard, and I’ll be able to do so for a long career with the help of some excellent team members.
Best advice you have received for maintaining health?
Tom Sweeney has been an incredible teacher and mentor, and one of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten from him is “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” It’s a gentle reminder that I need to pace myself and will be a much more productive, happy person if I do.
Who would you love for us to track down to answer these questions?
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