I am Dr. Erica Dance, Assistant Dean of Resident & Fellow Affairs at University of Alberta: How I Stay Healthy in EM
This week, we have Dr. Erica Dance (@erdance), a wellness guru from the University of Alberta. Dr. Dance is a passionate individual, who loves discussing the topic of wellness. In her role as Assistant Dean she works in the Learner Advocacy and Wellness office to support the well-being of residents and fellows across her institution. Within the post, she shares her tips for how to make wellness part of your everyday routine. Check out how Dr. Dance stays healthy in EM!
- Name: Erica Dance
- Location: Edmonton, Alberta
- Current job(s): Mother of 2 children (Joseph 7, Mara 4). Emergency Physician. Assistant Dean, Resident & Fellow Affairs, Office of Learner Advocacy & Wellness, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Alberta. Associate Clinical Professor, Department of EM, University of Alberta. Royal College Exam Prep Coordinator for the fifth year EM residents.
- One word that describes how you stay healthy: Moderation
- Primary behavior/activity for destressing: Talking it out
What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?
- Smart schedules. My husband and I carefully schedule my shifts, office days, time off and family plans in a way that is sustainable. As examples, I aim NOT to do more than 2 shifts in a row, work late shifts before office days, work shifts on days with other significant commitments, or plan for things early the day after a late evening or night shift. I ensure I have time to sleep. This does not always work out ideally, but so long at it usually works, I find my life more balanced and manageable.
- Staying active. Walking or biking more often than driving, standing more often than sitting and being outside as much as possible. Since starting an ‘office job’ in 2011, I really noticed how much time I spend sitting in a day and how much of the day I spend indoors. My husband and I converted to standing desks in our home office and I bike or walk to work at every opportunity. We enjoy meals and family play outside whenever possible. It’s good for the environment as well for as my health and happiness.
- A healthy support system. I like to talk things through and for that I need good people to talk and listen to. More of my stress comes from politics, work environment issues, interpersonal, and interprofessional interactions than from the medicine itself, so my husband is my #1 support despite him being non medical. My friends (both medical and non) offer insights, support and love, which help me immensely. I have learned over time the differences between rumination (remembering the event the same way – a good vent) and reflection (considering alternate versions of the event – ones we can learn from) and the benefits of both for me personally.
What’s your ideal workout?
Commuting to work! For at least half the year, my primary workouts come from commuting. I also have a treadmill conveniently set up in front of the TV, which helps to motivate me in the colder winter months.
Do you track your fitness? How?
I use a pedometer with an online app, which follows my steps, activity level and exercise events. I also use a run/cycle tracker for my commuting.
How do you prepare for a night shift? How do you recover from one?
I haven’t done traditional overnight shifts since 2011 but I do shift starts as late as 7pm – which I still consider a night shift!
The biggest preparation for me comes in scheduling – long before the shift itself. If I am only doing a few late evening shifts per month, and only up to 2 shifts in a row, I find the preparation to be minimal. I drink less coffee in the morning when I first get up and try to nap for 1-2 hours just prior to the shift. A good meal, a cup of coffee and a bit of time with my family just before heading out is ideal.
Recovery for me is sleep! I aim to sleep as soon as I get home and ensure good childcare plans so that I can sleep uninterrupted(ish).
How do you avoid getting “hangry” (angry due to hunger) on shift?
I bring a lunch with me and do not rely on finding time to go to the cafeteria. I take a lot of food in case I am particularly hungry or end up staying late, which helps to avoid the 2 am vending machine run! I also have food prepared for easy snacking – for example, I pack an apple already cut into slices so I can eat on the run.
How do you ensure you are mentally in check?
I watch myself with my kids. If I am well, I am happy at home, more patient and I pay more attention to them. When things get too busy or I am overwhelmed, I find myself impatient, grumpy or out of the loop at home all together. That’s when I know it is time to leave my email to pile up a bit, take an evening off, spend more time at home and catch up on sleep.
What are the biggest challenges you face in maintaining a longstanding career in EM? How do you address these challenges?
Fatigue: Both sleep deprivation itself as well as compassion fatigue. I address this by enjoying variety in my work (my administrative and teaching roles in addition to shifts), and by smart scheduling to ensure I have time at home and time to rest.
Best advice you have received for maintaining health?
The best advice I have received is to set your own path. It is important to ask for, and listen to the advice of others – but then take that advice and mold it into a plan that works for you. Things that work for others, may not work the same for you so be sure to personalize your goals, plans and path to good health.
Who would you love for us to track down to answer these questions?
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