An Oath to Self-Care Pledged Aloud

How Can We Lessen the Stigma?

On August 14, 2021 at the White Coat Ceremony for the UTHSC College of Medicine classes of 2024 and 2025, we combined our voices in unison to pledge the Oath to Self-Care and Well-Being. A proud parent in the audience happened to capture the moment on video.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and Sept. 17 is the fourth-annual National Physician Suicide Awareness Day. That day is dedicated to honoring the memory of colleagues who have died by suicide and to continue to raise awareness and discussion on how to prevent it. Through this month, the hope is that we will lessen the stigma for physicians and all other clinicians to speak about their struggles either privately or openly—and seek help.

To me, the Oath to Self-Care and Well-Being is one step in this direction, but can easily be discounted by cynicism and despair. I hope to be part of changing that.

The Hippocratic Oath is timeless, and names our duty to our patients and their families. However, our healthcare system today is different and in addition to our altruistic care for our patients, it calls for a partnership between system and self to be able to provide the best care to our patients, advocate for them and our vocation and thrive in our roles.

In framing this oath to supplement our Hippocratic Oath, we see well-being as a shared responsibility between the individual provider and the system, with the major responsibility lying with the system itself. With this new Oath to Self-Care and Well-Being we pledge to advocate and partner for a health care educational and delivery system that allows for the unashamed and unapologetic invitation to make care of self and the team a priority and promotes a culture that fosters the well-being of each and every member.

While most healthcare professionals pledge the Hippocratic Oath or a similar modified oath for the compassionate care of patients, the parallel pandemics impacting physician and health care professional health underscores the need that this same language should refer to the physicians’ self-care as well. This novel Oath to Self-Care and Well-Being embodies a reciprocal interaction that benefits the servant and the served. This oath champions for a partnership and commitment among healthcare professionals across all medical fields and healthcare organizations to address physician burnout and promote a culture of well-being.

Our system calls us to be resilient, which can only happen through caring for ourselves and care for each other. In the footprints of the Hippocratic Oath, we envision the wide adoption of this Oath to Self-Care and Well-Being by medical schools, residency programs, hospital organizations, and professional societies alike.

#REFLECT: What you are doing for self-care and care of others?

Stay tuned through September… Please join in the conversation here or at Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn about what you are doing for self-care and care of others.