September 28, 2022

Why Wellness Matters

Nilda Maria Williams, MD, MS, Certified Life Coach

Married to J. Henry Williams, MD, Interventional Radiology Section Chief at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). Mom to three girls (ages 6, 4 and 2) and a recently passed 12-year-old Labrador Retriever (our fur baby), Locke.

  • Assistant Professor of Radiology, Division of Body Imaging
  • Chair, UMMC Physician Wellness Subcommittee
  • Quality and Safety Officer, Department of Radiology
  • Wellness Officer, Department of Radiology
  • Community Outreach Coordinator, Department of Radiology
  • Body Imaging Fellowship Program Director
  • ACR RAN Board, Member-At-Large

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Nilda Maria Williams, MD, MS
Nilda Maria Williams, MD, MS with her husband and three daughters   Nilda Maria Williams, MD, MS sitting the floor with her 3 daughters and dog

When I speak with executives to convince them to invest in wellness initiatives, I tell them wellness matters because it costs hospitals big money when their physicians aren’t well (medical errors, higher turnover, recruitment costs). We as radiologists — who might also be executives — feel the effects of these issues in our day-to-day practice and life outside of work. Why else and how should we invest in our wellness?

Many of us have achieved our life goal of becoming a radiologist, and wondered, “For what? Here I am with my dream house, dream car and dream career, but I am still not happy.” We aren’t alone.

Studies show that physicians have some of the highest suicide rates and are often the least likely to not seek help or even acknowledge needing help! Why?

I’m sure we could all talk about the obvious reasons, but what we may not think about as a major contributor are those things we have control over and, ironically, the same exact same things that helped us achieve our goals: A drive to succeed and work hard at all costs.

We’ve conditioned ourselves to ignore all our self-care needs. We have repeatedly emptied our buckets for years. You don’t need me to tell you this can lead to a depleted, defeated, burned-out and unfulfilled life. Something will give. Whether it’s your marriage, your ability to calmly and patiently parent, your focus and sharpness on a long shift, or your drive to pursue those things that inspire and fulfill you most, professionally and personally.

In addition, many of us have too much pride to acknowledge when we need help, to ask for help, to seek therapy or take medications. We each need to invest in our own wellness, if not for any other reason, simply because we want to be happy and fulfilled in our work and our home life. We must know that as hard as it was to get here, we are selling ourselves short if we don’t put at least a fraction of that same amount of time, effort and even money into our well-being!

There are systemic, practice and individual components that we can work on to optimize our well-being as YPS radiologists. For your individual physical and mental health, you know you need to eat well, hydrate, sleep and exercise. But seriously, keep in mind that these methods are shown in studies to be as effective as medications in treating anxiety and depression, for example.

Take advantage of free wellness self-assessments (such as the Well-Being Index Survey Tool from the ACR Well-Being Program). Seek therapy. Do take medications as needed, just as you would for any physical issues. Make a list of your top three priorities in life. Does the life you are living align with your priorities? If not, what can you do to remedy that?

A simple idea to start tackling both your physical and mental health as well as productivity and satisfaction at work is committing to take quick, 5–10-minute walking, yoga or meditation breaks at work.

Think about most other specialties in medicine. They round — physically walk — and that in itself is a mental and physical break we’re not afforded by circumstance. As radiologists, we must be more disciplined in creating those opportunities for ourselves. For example, tell yourself, “After I read this stack of studies, I’ll do a 10-minute Peloton or You Tube light weights arms class.”

In our residency program at UMMC, we offer 10-minute breaks after our noon conference every Wednesday (“Wellness Wednesday”) to participate in optional activities like this. Studies show that these kinds of breaks at work actually boost productivity and enhance our sense of well-being.

To optimize your professional fulfillment, write down your top three goals for your career. Are you on the right path? What specific steps can you take to get there? Google “SMARTER” goals to help you get started, if you aren’t already familiar. Enlist a physician life coach.

In your practice, don’t underestimate your voice as an individual, even while young in your career. You can advocate for yourself. Clearly communicate what kinds of things are or aren’t working for your schedule and work-life balance, for example. Look for areas of compromise. If you don’t express your needs, wants and boundaries, you may be missing opportunities that work not only better for you, but for your counterparts and your practice as a whole.

Read the June 2022 ACR Bulletin article, “Nurturing the Radiology Workplace,” for many more points on creating a culture of wellness in the radiology workplace. If you want to see systemic changes in the practice of radiology to enhance your well-being, get involved with the ACR, RAN (Radiology Advocacy Network) or the AMA, for example. You CAN make a difference and create waves of change!

I hope this article has helped you realize why your wellness matters and has inspired you to pursue whatever it is that only you know you need to do to optimize it. If you want to be the best radiologist, co-worker, wife, husband, mom, dad or friend you can be, invest in yourself. You get one life. You deserve to live your BEST LIFE as the BEST YOU, you can be!

Be Rad. Be Well!