I am Dr. Jennifer Stahl, EM and Critical Care Physician: How I Stay Healthy in EM
Dr. Jennifer Stahl is an emergency and critical care physician from North Carolina. Despite juggling busy ED and ICU schedules, Dr. Stahl finds ways to stay active and spend time with her family and friends. From eating well, to practicing reflection and mindfulness, Dr. Stahl has more than a few tips on wellness. Here’s how she stays healthy in EM!
- Name: Jennifer Stahl
- Location: Greenville, North Carolina
- Current job(s): Emergency Medicine and Critical Care Attending Physician at East Carolina University/Vidant Medical Centre
- 1 word that describes how you stay healthy: Active
- Primary behavior/activity to help de-stress: Involving myself in fun activities
What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?
- Eat a balanced diet. Enjoy everything in moderation. I am a carb-aholic so complete deprivation is not enjoyable. Eating some protein, veggies, and balancing with healthy carbs and a few cheats here and there keep my appetite and cravings fulfilled.
- Keep active. I tend to do lots of different things to stay happy and healthy. I have 2 young kids (ages 4 and 2) – usually anything with them is active! I like to take my them and the dogs for a walk, go for a run, swim or bike, walk around the mall, go to the park, play games, etc. Taking my kids to the park usually results in us spending half the time playing tag, which is a solid workout. Attending community events is always fun and usually requires some form of activity. I also like to keep active with intramural sports.
- Social balance. Being healthy includes the psychosocial side. Making sure I am spending time with friends and family, even if it means having a relaxing dinner with some friends can keep my mind and soul happy. Keep your mind open to lots of different opportunities (crafting, hiking, swimming, reading, etc). You never know when you will find your next favorite hobby.
What is your ideal workout?
I played soccer in college, so I am accustomed to a strict workout schedule. Nowadays, with 2 little ones in tow, my workouts are usually more efficient and serve as a de-stress activity, too. When I make it to the gym, I like to run on the treadmill for a few miles, then do the elliptical for about 45 minutes (enough to catch up on a TV show episode). I usually finish up with some core exercises and maybe a few arm or leg weights.
Do you track your fitness? How?
How do you prepare for a night shift? How do you recover from one?
Working in both the ED and ICU, I frequently shift between days and nights. When going into a night shift, I try to workout or do some sort of activity in the morning/early afternoon, followed by a pre-shift nap. I get up a few hours before shift, make dinner for my family, and meal prep for the next few days. Post-shift, I go straight to sleep if I have a second night. If I am coming off of nights, I try to stay up by doing some activity, either playing with the kids or running errands. Towards the afternoon I will take a 3-4 hour nap, wake up for dinner with the family, followed by an early bedtime that night.
How do you avoid getting “hangry” (angry due to hunger) on shift?
I bring protein bars; they fit in your scrubs or white coat pocket and never get old. They also satisfy the sweet tooth.
How do you ensure you are mentally in check?
I try to stop and smell the roses as often as I can. A lot of times self-reflection occurs in the car, either on my way to a shift or home from work. This is the limited time that I have alone, to reflect on my shift, my patient care, and most of all my happiness. If I am feeling down from a bad shift, I sometimes take the dogs for a walk or play with my kids to reset my mood. Sometimes just settling in to watch a movie takes my mind off of things as well. I think everyone should take a few daily moments for self-reflection. We don’t do it often enough, but sometimes you have to congratulate yourself on a job well done!
What are the biggest challenges you face in maintaining a longstanding career in EM? How do you address these challenges?
Physician burnout is always a huge concern. I have a schedule that allows me to work 3 months in the ED and then 3 months in the ICU. I had the same schedule during residency, and it has always made it easier to avoid burnout. Once I get frustrated or bored with 1 side, it is usually time to switch. I like the variety that working in both the ED and ICU allows – it keeps things interesting and exciting!
Best advice you have received for maintaining health?
Keep a good sleep schedule. Try to set aside time for yourself. Stay active and be open-minded to different activities and people. Everything in moderation.
Who would you love for us to track down to answer these questions?
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