Well-being Word

April 8, 2022

The Well-being Word

April 8, 2022

Erin Herrera, CRNA
Erin Herrera, CRNA
Associate Vice-Chair of Well-Being

It seems like everywhere you turn these days we are hearing about well-being. It certainly is the new hot buzzword! Talk of well-being, self-care, and burnout have permeated our culture—and for good reason. The pandemic has monumentally shifted the way we prioritize care for ourselves and others. We are entering an era where the importance of mental health and well-being is finally being brought to the forefront. However, improving and maintaining your well-being, especially for those of us working in the healthcare sphere, is more than just an occasional self-care activity. Improving your well-being takes a concerted effort, both as a department as well as individually.

This month I would like to talk about burnout. We all feel it, but what is it really? Burnout is a result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical and mental stress. Those suffering from burnout experience emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, loss of passion, and loss of motivation.

Burnout manifests differently for all of us, but the long-term result can have consequences ranging from physical illness, irritability, cynicism, impatience, poor interpersonal relationships, and even negatively impacting your executive functions.

If this description resonates with you, please know that you are not alone!

“We are in this together!” has been seriously overplayed since COVID—but truly nobody understands your work and stressors like your colleagues. We are in this together and it is so important to check-in and offer support to those around you if you can. Offer an ear or a shoulder, send them something to make them laugh, or ask them honestly how they are feeling and if they need help. We need to develop and foster support networks where people feel safe opening up both when they are struggling AND when they want to share joy and accomplishments!

Human connection is so important for our mental health.

If you ever need someone to talk with, I am available to each of you at any time. Call me, text me, email me, find me at work! Whether you are struggling and need some assistance or you just want to share some joyful news, I am here to help. 

We are working hard to create meaningful impactful changes here in the Department of Anesthesiology to improve the mental health, burnout, and well-being of our teams as well as improve the culture and climate of our department.

I encourage you to look through this newsletter and look through the many resources available to help you and keep coming back each month to learn about new content and initiatives.

If you have any ideas about what we could provide that would better support your wellness please let me know!

Please join me this Saturday for Kids and Coffee at Choteau Park. I’ll bring the donuts and coffee, you bring yourselves and your kids! **Kids not required— adults are welcome to come, grab a donut, take a walk around The Grove, or hit the basketball courts for some HORSE or friendly anesthesia 4 on 4 (including smack-talking March Madness bracket results)!

Yours in wellness and support,


Upcoming Events

April 9 @9am
Kids & Coffee
Chouteau Park 

Come join us for a casual morning of coffee, donuts, and playground action. This fantastic newly renovated park has playground equipment as well as basketball courts for older kiddos. 

Add to: Google Calendar | Outlook | iCal File

May 1 @2pm
Anesthesia Day on the Farm
Brookdale Farms

Join your WashU anesthesia colleagues for bonfires, food trucks (Byrd & Barrel and The Feed Wagon), Hayrides, a bounce house (suitable for kids & adults), and a cash bar. 

Add to: Google Calendar | Outlook | iCal File

May 15 @ 1p
Annie Malone Parade
Downtown St. Louis

Celebrate the amazing diversity in St. Louis by walking with the Department of Anesthesiology in the Annie Malone Parade, the second largest African-American parade in the country! More information to come.

Add to: Google Calendar | Outlook | iCal File

Chili Cookoff!

Thank you to all who participated in the Chili Cookoff!

Our winner was Dr. Cathy Ifune! Her secret recipe? Canned Hormel Chili in a crockpot 😉

WUDA March Madness

March Madness has come to an end—but what a game!

We hope many of you had a chance to watch one of the most exciting championship game to memory with a historic comeback by KU after halftime.

1st place – Randy Branson (Director of WUDA IS)

2nd place – Andrew Thorsen (Resident)

3rd place – Kelly Houston (Critical Care APP)

Winner of the Bottom Four – Tom Bozada (CRNA) by tie-breaker!

Thanks to everyone who participated. I hope you had fun and maybe saw some names in our Department who you may have not known before. Go say hi to them!

A Day in the Life of Kenya Mason, CRNA

Kenya Mason, CRNA, gives us a glimpse into her everyday life as a gastrointestinal team lead.

A Day in the Life: Kenya Mason, CRNA

5:15 a.m.—The alarm starts to sing. I quickly silence it as I settle into a moment of silent prayer for my family and pondering of the day ahead. After a series of last-minute yawns and stretches, I glance at my phone to be reminded of any follow-ups and commitments.

5:30 a.m.—I’m out of bed now and headed straight to the kitchen to hit the power button on the Keurig. As it warms up, I set up my blood pressure medications consisting of two antihypertensives and diuretics. Hypertension runs on both sides of my family. Strokes and aneurysms plagued both my grandmothers and my father also; so adhering to my prescribed medications is a crucial part of my day. I tend not to make small talk outside of saying “good morning” to my kids & husband during this time so that I don’t become distracted in conversation and forget to take my meds. I’m very much a creature of habit and routine. My family understands this about me and they allow me to thaw out mentally in the early morning before bombarding me with sideline chatter. As I sit and sip my coffee, I’m often on Twitter ingesting what is happening in politics and around the world.

5:45 – 6:15 a.m.—I’m showering and getting dressed for work.

6:30 a.m.—I emerge from my bedroom less gremlin-like and cheery. This is the time that my family and I all start to engage in issues of the day, tasks, and reminders as we are in and out of the pantry and fridge making lunches. Most times I’m intermittently fasting breakfast and eating lunch and dinner only. If I’m feeling naughty and off my game, I’ll indulge with a banana or blueberry muffin before heading out to work.

6:45 a.m.—I’m in the car headed to work. I use this time to rock out to my favorite playlist as I cruise Forest Park Parkway.

7:00 a.m.—I’m in the GI lab preparing my workstation for the day and making the rounds greeting everyone with morning niceties. As I engage in upbeat talk, give hugs and shoot the breeze with colleagues, I’m also surveying the board for changes, add-on cases, assignments of 8-hour CRNAs versus longer shift staff and late rooms. I purposely cultivate a pleasant atmosphere in the GI lab. Additionally, the people in GI have come to expect good vibes from me, so I’m always conscious to deliver.

7:30 a.m.—The first case starts and I greet the patient and commence the anesthetic plan. From this point forward I’m in arm’s length of everyone in the room. The close proximity causes us to have to work in tandem with one another to execute the cases and thats exactly what we do.

Throughout the day I’m looking for ways to facilitate movement of the cases in all rooms. Sometimes that means taking a case from another room that may be behind, starting difficult IVs, taking an early or late lunch, and moving at a good pace in between cases to ensure I complete my assignment and avail myself for relief for an 8 hr colleague.

2:00 -3:30 p.m.—During this time I’m either taking over a new room, acquiring some add on inpatient cases from the adjacent room or simply continuing to matriculate through my own assigned cases. If I’m still in my room; this is the time when the higher degree of difficulty, longer and sicker patient cases are done.

4:00-6:00 p.m.—At this time I’m either finishing up my day or I’m the late person that will stay until all the work is done. Oftentimes, if it is not my late night and the person who is assigned late rooms is forecast to go beyond 6 p.m. I will offer to stay late with them and take on one of their cases to lighten their late assignment. Nobody wants to stay to 7 p.m. and beyond after a full day in GI. Furthermore, this improves morale, camaraderie, and cohesion among the anesthesia providers and it keeps us mentally fresh enough to come back to do it all again tomorrow.

6:00-8:00 p.m.—This is decision time about what to do for dinner. If my son has
physical therapy or my daughter has basketball practice we are definitely getting carry out. By this time I literally have a quarter tank of energy left for the day. If all is good in the hood and nobody has nowhere to be I morph into a pretty good cook if I must say so myself… The fam are very particular about dinner. The food has to deliver on aesthetics as well as taste in order for them to be satisfied. I rattle the pots and pans with lots of love. This is one area that I score big as a mom. It does my heart good when they rave about my cooking.

8:00-10:00 p.m.—It’s cable news in the background, talk about Lebron James mixed in with nuggets of interesting things that happened in our individual day, and a general winding down for me and my crew.

10:30 p.m.—I’m asleep.

Weekends are for watching my daughter play in her basketball games, seeing my elderly mother-in-law, being social with my core group of girlfriends, catching up with the young people I mentor, and date nights with the husband. Joe and I go on at least two dates per month. One of which is casual and the other is a full date-night dress code. It’s so fun and keeps our marriage humming along. Transforming into different versions of myself through hairstyles, make-up, and fashion is what I do. It’s a key part of my character. We seek out live music, concerts, and any place that offers a great moscow mule and vibes.

Mindful Mondays Challenge

Mental Health Awareness Month is coming up in May and we’ve partnered with Calm to bring you the Mindful Mondays Challenge. Each week, Calm will send you an email with short, mindfulness activities to help you build positive, healthy habits.

Ease stress and anxiety with these mindfulness tools

Some occasional stress is a normal part of life, but when we experience high, prolonged stress without taking time to rest, our nervous system gets stuck in a cycle that clouds our judgment and affects our overall health. Unlike stress, anxiety is a persistent feeling of dread or apprehension, and is the most common mental health issue in the U.S.

Whether you experience stress and anxiety occasionally or regularly, building a personal toolkit for dealing with these difficult emotions can help you get more rest and help your nervous system recover from wear and tear. Ease stress right now with these mindfulness tools from Calm, our partner in mental well-being:

  • Use the 7 Days of Calming Anxiety program to soothe any mental and physical responses to anxiety and stressors
  • Gain a better understanding of the root causes of your stress, then develop your own personalized relaxation toolkit with the Managing Stress workbook
  • If you need immediate help stepping back from a worry spiral, use Panic SOS, a quick guided meditation to ease panic and anxiety with grounding techniques

Wellness Outside Work!

Below are photos of members of our department engaging and connecting with each other outside of work. As I said earlier, Human connection is so important for our mental health!! Submit photos of you and/or your colleagues engaging in wellness outside of the office, here, so we can spotlight all of our members.