Well-being Word

February 18, 2022

The Well-being Word

February 18, 2022

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

The theme of this week’s newsletter is balance. Balance is a critical piece of well-being and one of the major keys to reducing burnout. However, balance looks different to each of us. For some of us, our work and what we do here in the department are what bring us joy, satisfaction, and inspiration. Our professional life energizes and stimulates us mentally and physically.

But that is not the same for all of us. For many of us, our passions lay outside of our professional jobs. We have pride in what we do professionally, but we find joy and passion inspiration outside of work, and that is OK too. Both of these mindsets are important for our department. Just because your day does not look like someone else’s, does not mean that your day is less important, or more or less balanced. It’s just different. Self-care and balance are extremely personal and different for us all. Doing good work doesn’t require work to always come first. Having other priorities doesn’t make you disloyal. What is important is to work to find moments of joy and pride in all you do, both at work and outside of it.

The things that make you human and bring you emotional satisfaction are what brings authenticity and a positive culture to our group. When you lead a balanced and resilient life, it is scientifically proven that your work performance is improved.

As we continue our “Day in the Life” series and learn more about each other and each division, I wanted to stress that these are merely snapshots of who we are and what we do.

This week, I am giving you a snapshot of MY life, but I would like to show you TWO different days in the same week. These days look very different, but on both days, I find pride and inspiration. One of the days is a more tangible representation of what I contribute to the department, but both days I am making myself and our department a better place by working to bring my best authentic and balanced self to work.

Yours in Wellness,


Do you want to join the well-being efforts in the department? Become part of the inaugural Well-Being Committee! We need people with great wellness ideas who want to help engage our teams and improve overall well-being in the department. If this sounds like something you are interested in please contact Erin Herrera (erinherrera@wustl.edu).

A Day in the Life of Erin Herrera, CRNA

A Day in the Life: Erin Herrera

Erin Herrera: Work Edition

It’s an OR day!

4:30a: My first alarm goes off at 4:30a, but usually hit snooze a few times. Once I finally get my wits about me—I reach for my phone and look at my daily schedule, check epic to see if any of the cases in my OR for the day have changed and look at any updates to my patients’ chart or labs from overnight. Then I scroll through Instagram for 10 min or so until I finally drag myself out of bed. 

5:00a: Quick shower and get ready for the day. 

5:15-6:00a: “Erin time” — I sit on the couch and drink my coffee, watch local news, and scroll through Instagram uninterrupted. This is MY time and everyone knows not to come downstairs during this hour unless it is an emergency! This is my time to sit in silence and morph into the friendly person that shows up to work! 

My blue scooter!

6:00a: I drag my 6-year-old daughter out of bed. She is not a morning person! I quickly make her breakfast and pack her lunch while she watches cartoons. Also around 6:00a Jan Davis calls me and we go over call-in coverage and staffing for the day. We shift around assignments to make the daily staffing puzzle work.

6:15a: My husband comes down and we tag out kid duties — I then run off to work. Most days you can find me driving in on my signature blue scooter.

6:30a: I arrive at work, quickly change into scrubs, and head up to the daily staffing huddle. Here we go over the daily schedule and all the moving pieces with a bigger team of CRNAs and physicians. 

6:45a: I head to my assigned OR for the day to begin setting up. I work in Pod 3, which is the cardiothoracic, vascular, transplant, and cardiac cath lab ORs. My first stop is usually the pharmacy to grab a few drugs I will need for the day—then I head to the OR, check my anesthesia machine, and set up for the procedure. 

7:00a: I head to the preop holding area (usually with a few social stops and a quick cup of coffee on the way). When I get to preop, I go see my patient and go over their history and the anesthesia plan for the day. I then meet with my attending for the day, and we chat about our anesthesia plan and anything else important about the case.

Preparing for the day as I get the OR set up.

7:20a: I begin heading back to the OR with the patient! Got to be in the room by 7:30a!! Hustle hustle!!

7:30a-4:00p: I am in the OR! Depending on what service I am working with, I generally do anywhere from 1-4 cases a day! My patients are often in the ICU. I spend a lot of my days going to the ICU and bringing patients down to the OR and then back up! It’s hard work transporting a patient with all their pumps and machines back and forth to the ICU (especially heart failure patients). It takes a team of 4-5 of us to get a patient down to the OR sometimes.

During breaks in between cases, I am usually checking and responding to emails. On a busy day, I get anywhere from 50-75 emails. Most days I also have at least one Zoom meeting that I am on at some point.

If I am out of the OR, you can generally expect to see a cup of coffee in my hand. I love strong dark coffee and drink a cup every chance I get!

Trauma board time…

4:00p: If the cases in my room are finished, I head to the trauma board! From there, Jen Mahan and the trauma attending decide my fate for the last bit of my day. Sometimes I give dinner breaks to our late shift CRNAs, sometimes I relieve another CRNA, sometimes I help bring up a trauma or other emergency case from the ER. Every day in the OR is different and I love that change of pace!

5:00p: This is the end of my shift. Sometimes I leave at 5p, sometimes the ORs are still busy and I work for a while longer until the case is done or a 12-hour CRNA can relieve me! 

5:30p: I run to my office and answer any lingering emails. At least one day a week I have a late-day Zoom meeting before I head home. I try my best to put my phone away when I get home for a few hours. 

6:00p: I go to the fridge and pick out one of my GoFresh meal bags for dinner. I started getting a meal delivery service this year and it had reduced my stress so much!! While I cook dinner, my daughter and husband sit in the kitchen with me and we do her homework and chat about our days. When I am in the ORs I usually only think about WashU and anesthesia stuff so my husband updates me on what news is happening out in the world! We also love to throw on Wheel of Fortune (the OG Wordle). We are SUPER competitive with each other!

6:45p: We start to herd my daughter upstairs to start her bedtime routine. We feed fish, brush teeth, and read a few books. 

7:45p: Once we finally get the kiddo to sleep, my husband and I hit the couch and watch some TV. During this time, I usually look up my patients for the next day and occasionally answer a few more emails. If I’m lucky enough to get to work with an SRNA the next day, this is the time when we usually talk or text about our cases and their plan.

8:30-9:00p: We head to bed. I have an autoimmune disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is exacerbated when I am overtired, so I am VERY protective of my sleep to try to prevent flares. I usually aim to always get 7-8 hours a night to keep my disease in check. I look at my RA as a blessing in disguise. My body tells me loud and clear when I need to slow down and find better balance!

We usually end our day throwing on reruns of the Office or my favorite show—What we do in the Shadows! I set my series of alarms for the next day and head to sleep.

Erin Herrera: Personal Edition

A day off!

Skiing at Hidden Valley!

8:45a: Woke up! It’s my off day and I desperately needed a day to sleep in! I taught my daughter to ski this weekend, and my back was reminding me that getting a 6-year-old down a slippery hill is no joke. My husband graciously took care of all morning kid duties.

Zoom time!

9:00a: Slept too late and now I’m running late for a Zoom. I threw on a hat, frantically looked at my notes, and hopped on my computer. Had a great conversation about PIA SAFE content programming.

10:00a: Spent an hour taking care of some loose ends from some projects I’m working on, and making some calls to try and plan some new Wellness events. (If you have a good suggestion about a place to have a department bonfire I’m all ears!!)

Hair cut and color by Vik!

11:00a-2:00p: Hair Salon! I took several hours to myself today to get my hair cut and colored. I drank a coffee, chatted with my stylist, and just relaxed.

Vik has been cutting both my hair and my daughter’s for several years now. Last year they identified as transgender, began hormone treatments, and transitioned to using them/them pronouns.

They are so wonderful and open about the process, and it has been such a great opportunity for myself and my daughter to have an open dialogue about what it means to be transgender and about pronouns. I am so thankful that I am able to use experiences like my relationship with Vik to bring a more knowledgeable perspective to my life and work.

2:00-4:00p: Hit the couch with some hummus and pita chips. I thought about reading a book for work but decided to watch a murder mystery docuseries instead and enjoyed some quiet time in the house while my daughter is at school.

Time for homework and dinner

4:00p: Picked my daughter up from school, came home, and started homework, spelling words, and dinner prep! Threw in a load of laundry.

5:00p: Quick early dinner because it is soccer night!

5:30p: Head to soccer practice at St. Louis Futbol club. This is a time for me to catch up with my friends—while our kids play soccer we get a chance to hang out and chat!

7:00p: Home from soccer and start the bedtime routine. While my daughter gets ready I talk to my student about our cases for tomorrow. We are on “Remotes” tomorrow, which likely means neuro IR here we come.

8:30p: Head to bed!

Did I “accomplish” much today in a traditional sense? Nope. Will I come to work tomorrow refreshed, energized, and ready to do what I love, absolutely! I love to do anesthesia. I am so thankful every day this is my chosen career. In my opinion, it truly is the best job in the whole world and I cannot imagine doing anything else, but I also love my days not doing anesthesia.

Wellness Walk – February 12

Last week’s February Wellness Walk was a blast! Thank you to all who attended — it was great seeing some old faces and meeting some new ones. A special thank you to Dr. Walter Boyle, owner of Shaws Coffee, for the coffee AND to Gioia’s Deli for the hot salami sandwiches!

Be sure to mark your calendars for next month’s Wellness Walk on
March 20 at 10 a.m. at Shaw Nature Reserve! Learn more

A Note from the Department of Psychiatry

To our fellow Washington University employees,

Thank you. It is just two words, but we know you don’t hear it enough.

We at the Department of Psychiatry want to let you know we are thinking of you and are grateful for the way that you get up every day and help people. We also know that this experience is unlike anything you have ever experienced before in healthcare and the compounding weight of the pandemic on you and your loved ones is not something we take lightly.

There have been emotional highs and lows during this experience that have left many of us feeling exhausted- moments of hope when numbers are down and vaccines are approved, as well as moments of anger and hopelessness when numbers are up and lives are lost. Some of us have become accustomed to that feeling of disappointment when yet another variant or wave arrives, and it may seem relentless, almost predictable. We know it didn’t have to be this way, and yet it is, and that alone is a lot to handle.

We want you to know that we are here to help. We know that words are nice, but actions are nicer. As such, we have been building a WU Employee and Family Wellness service over the pandemic to address your mental health needs. We have therapists and psychiatrists available within two weeks for both adults and children. We offer confidential telehealth visits or in-person visits. Early morning, lunchtime and late afternoon appointments are available. To find out more about the service you can visit us online at https://psychiatry.wustl.edu/. To make an appointment, please call us at (314) 286-1700. On our website you can also find resources, books, and websites that might be helpful to you during this time.

Sometimes when we endure so much, we might not even have the time or capacity to recognize the impacts on our own well-being. We haven’t had a second to breathe. It is also possible we may see effects long after the storm has passed. Please know we are committed to our services and are not going anywhere. You have been there for everyone else; please let us be there for you.

We are also available if you have suggestions of what additional services might be helpful from a mental health perspective. If you believe your area or team could benefit from programmatic support, please contact our clinic Program Manager Krista Jarvis at kjarvis@wustl.edu. Presentations, Q & A sessions, and introductions to our services can be provided to your group.

With immense gratitude,

Dr. Jessica Gold and Krista Jarvis, LPC
On behalf of Washington University Mental Health and Wellness Services