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To take care of patients, health care providers and researchers must take care of themselves

April 22, 2021, 5:00 PM UTC
"Call it the Hippocratic Paradox," write Arianna Huffington and David Agus: "Putting the patient first also means putting yourself first."
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The science clearly tells us that taking care of yourself is the most essential thing you can do in order to properly care for someone else—including when it comes to caring for patients in life-or-death situations. Call it the Hippocratic Paradox: Putting the patient first also means putting yourself first. 

For many dedicated health care providers, this might seem not only counterintuitive, but impossible. You pursued the path you’re on to take care of others, not take better care of yourself.

But the two go hand-in-hand, and that’s why we’re so excited to kick off a partnership between the Ellison Institute and Thrive Global. As longtime friends and collaborators, we’ve seen again and again how “securing your own oxygen mask first” is essential for helping others—in any profession, and in every aspect of our lives. At Thrive, we believe the Ellison Institute’s mission of transforming the prevention and treatment of cancer couldn’t be more important. And we’re committed to supporting the Institute’s healthcare providers and researchers so they can show up every day as their best selves, move science forward, and deliver the best care possible for their patients.

That means giving them tools and resources they can use to maximize their impact. The Thrive app is one of those tools: It offers the latest science, storytelling and hundreds of actionable Microsteps to help users manage stress and significantly improve their well-being. Some of those steps are particularly well-suited to helping health care providers improve their own lives and those of their patients. One powerful example is Reset, one of the app’s most popular features, which is based on the science that we can course-correct from stress in just 60 to 90 seconds. Reset users can create their own personalized 60-second Reset by selecting images, quotes and sounds that bring them calm and joy — or choose from our ready-made Reset guides on topics like stretching, gratitude and mindfulness. Providers who are caring for patients may not have time for a 20-minute meditation or walk. But they can take 60 seconds to reset, recharge, and return to their work with less stress.

Together, we recently hosted a dedicated webinar for Ellison Institute employees. It was a conversation about how healthcare professionals in stressful situations can prioritize their well-being to better serve their patients and how scientific researchers can bring their best selves to the lab and make innovation happen. And Joey Hubbard, Thrive’s chief training officer, led a session on Thriving Mind, our mental health and resilience program. It’s all about helping people identify their individual signs of stress so they can take action to manage it.

We’re also big believers in the importance of role models—including those we work alongside. The Thrive app includes inspiring stories of Ellison Institute employees and how they are taking small steps and seeing big results. For example, Matt Abney, senior director of special projects, shares how small habits and rituals—like reading a book at lunch instead of working through lunch—help him recharge. For Ken Okajima, supervising system administrator, deep breathing and stretching throughout the day help him maintain energy and focus, while Jillian Infusino, education and outreach specialist, shares the advice that helps her keep things in perspective: “Take care of yourself, pace yourself, and let the little things go.”

In 2016, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy sounded the alarm about two looming crises. One was the opioid epidemic, and the other was burnout in the medical profession. “As I think about the emotional well-being for our country, I am particularly interested in how to cultivate emotional well-being for healthcare providers,” he said. “If healthcare providers aren’t well, it’s hard for them to heal the people for whom they are caring.”

We’re committed to supporting healthcare providers and researchers so they can do their important work. And we’re hopeful this is just the beginning. 

Arianna Huffington is the founder and CEO of Thrive Global. David Agus, M.D., is the CEO and Founding Director of the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC.