How does someone in the world of medicine and healthcare manage their own wellness? I think many people just assume, “Hey, she’s a doctor, she must be healthy – she’s so involved in supporting wellness that it must be just easy!”
The fact is, it’s not that easy.
Yes, doctors help patients with their health every day, from stitches to prescriptions and everything in between, but the reality is often overlooked. They are people too! They’re individuals who, like everyone else, need their own wellness and support systems, inside and outside the busy healthcare system.
This past month, I had a chance to speak with Dr. Susan Knoll, a family practitioner, someone who, among many other wonderful traits, has incorporated wellness throughout her life. Here’s her story.
What did your road to practicing medicine look like?
Helping people has always been a passion of mine, and when I was in high school I enjoyed biology and physics. Truthfully, my mother suggested medicine and got me thinking it might be possible. If you were pointed in the sciences direction out of grade school when I grew up, the choices were a little more limited than they are now!
I completed my two year pre-medical and my full medical program at the University of Saskatchewan, and then went on to residency for a year each in Saskatoon and Regina. Once my residency finished, I moved to La Ronge, Saskatchewan, a town of 5,000 people, where I spent nine wonderful years!
What inspires your personal wellness?
Wellness for me comes down to what I preach to my patients. Life is a pie, and each piece represents an important component. Each slice needs to be addressed or the pie will have a hole.
These are my life’s seven pie pieces:
Family. My relationship with my husband Garry is key. Having medicine in common, we’ve been able to provide each other with support inside and outside of work. Other common interests allow us to do lots together outside of work too! One of these is our family, and now grandkids, who live down the street from us!
Faith. Before I attended the University of Saskatchewan for pre-med, I attended a year of bible school - my faith has had a large role in my wellness to this day. It’s truly special to be involved in a dedicated community of people who are like-minded, accountable, there for you in the tough times, and celebrate with you in times of achievement. This another thing that Garry and I share.
Friends. I’ve got great colleagues and peers. I’ve always believed that, in many ways, successful office-partner relationships are like a marriage. They take effort to maintain - and don’t get in a relationship you don’t think will work! Even though I have amazing friends inside the world of medicine, I’ll admit sometimes this line of work can be overwhelming. It’s important to have friendships with people outside the medical community so you can take a breath, reset, and keep perspective.
Exercising. I use a Fitbit! Any encouragement to get up and move is good, but I’ve always thought the more outside the better: cross-country skiing, biking, walking, and gardening are some of my favourites! I don’t always achieve my daily goal, but when I do, I feel much better.
Finances. Finances are a major stressor for a lot of people and there is a lot of pressure to live beyond our means. I think the better you manage your money, the less stress it is. Simply said, but not always as easily done!
Holidays. We try to always have a holiday planned. It doesn’t necessarily have to be right away, but it gives us something to look forward to! By the time you finish a holiday, I think you should have another one in the works, even if it’s six months away! Change is good.
Fulfilling work. I find much joy in my work. We often think of work as a necessary evil, a kind of drudgery. But I think being able to do meaningful work, making the world a better place, and having some positive impact on those around me is important to my sense of well-being.
If you could pass on one wellness tip to another person, what would you say?
Balance. As I tell my patients, moderation is the key. Not too much of anything, but get enough of everything!