Well-being Word

October 7, 2022

The Well-being Word

October 7, 2022

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

It ok to not be ok!

October 10th is World Mental Health Day. This is a great time for us all to take a pause, and reflect on our own personal mental health and the mental health of those around us.

We all work in stressful, demanding environments. For many of us, we truly have people’s lives in our hands each day. The emotional, mental, and physical demands of our job can be intense.

Anesthesia as a profession has the highest substance abuse rates and the highest suicide rates of all other medical professions. While it has improved dramatically over the years, there continues to be a lot of stigma around talking about mental health. Checking in with friends and coworkers about how they are doing can be hard, even harder when you are broaching scary subjects like suicide and substance abuse.

Whether you are struggling with something at home, something personal, or something that has happened at work—we have resources available to you. It is so important to not suffer in silence. We are all at risk.

Your colleagues are often a great place to lean, especially for work-related stressors. The benefit of having a large, diverse team here in WUDA is that there is likely someone in our department who has gone through, or is going through, the same issues as you—you are not alone! Reach out, even if you aren’t comfortable discussing your emotions or the problem, just spending time with someone can help your mental health.

Some of us are external processors. When I have a bad patient outcome, or a stressful event happening at work, you can bet that I have talked to several people about it. For me, talking through a case with a bad outcome or a patient death can be not only helpful and cathartic, but NECESSARY for my processing and emotional response to the event.

I have been doing anesthesia for over 10 years, and when I have a bad patient outcome I will still lay in bed all night replaying the case, questioning every choice I made, and obsessively checking EPIC over and over. I am thankful that I have several friends who will gladly text with me in the middle of the night if I need someone to talk to. After nearly a decade of learning how to process a patient death, it never gets easier, but I have found ways to help myself process and cope in a healthy way.

Sharing my thoughts helps ME process things.

Have you considered the way that you best process your emotions and stressors?

Do you have a plan and a support network you can rely on when you need help?

There is no one solution. There are many approaches and many resources.

My challenge to you this month is to reach out to a colleague and REALLY, TRULY check in with them.

Here are some tips on checking in on a colleague:

  1. Choose the right time and setting
  2. Start the conversation in an open way “how have you been lately?” is a great start
  3. Be specific about what has made you concerned. “I have noticed you haven’t seemed yourself lately. Is there anything you’d like to talk about?” or “I know you had a tough day in the operating room on Monday. Would you like to talk about it?”
  4. Listen without judgment
  5. Follow up with them and thank them for sharing with you. “I’ve been thinking about you since we talked and wanted to know how you are doing.”

Here are some things to say instead of “I’m fine” if you really are not fine:

  1. “Things have been pretty rough recently. When you have space to listen, let me know and I can share more.” This is a great way to not emotionally dump on someone who may not be in a place to listen with the intention they would like.
  2. “I’m not sure how to put my feelings into words at the moment. It’s been a lot recently. I appreciate you asking, but I’m not sure how to talk about it right now.” This lets people in to let them know you are struggling and sets boundaries around the conversation.
  3. “I’m not doing the best… I am open to talking about it, but I would prefer a listening ear versus problem-solving right now” This clearly states what you need from the other person if you want to share.

Normalize talking about mental health and reaching out for help. Normalize talking to a therapist and being on medication. Normalize answering honestly when someone asks how you are doing.

It’s ok not to be ok!

If you ever need someone to talk to, please reach out to me personally. I am available to you 24/7.

Yours in wellness,


WashU/WUDA Support Programs

One of the best parts of working here at Washington University is the plethora of incredible programming and resources available to us! The downside…. there are SO many excellent resources it can be difficult for people to know what programs exist and the best way to get the assistance they need.

Peer Support

The Clinician Peer Support Program was established to help WashU clinicians in coping with difficult experiences as healthcare providers. It’s also completely confidential!

Learn more, request peer support, or apply to be a peer supporter on WUSM’s website.

Peer Advocate

A Peer Advocate is a perioperative services team member whose responsibility is to facilitate the resolution of interpersonal disconnects and incidents occurring between two or more team members.

Peer Advocates are present across all disciplines within the perioperative environment and can be identified by their green badge tags.


Peers in Anesthesiology Supporting a Fair Environment (PIA SAFE) is a peer-based program that helps address concerns about negative behaviors, conflicts, and microaggressions experienced by members of our department.

Learn more, meet our champions, or become a champion by visiting our website.

More support programs

WashU Employee and Family Clinical Services offers outpatient therapy and psychiatric services to all WashU employees. Appointments will be scheduled within two weeks.

WashU’s Employee Assistance Program offers FREE counseling/therapy options 24/7

Physician Support Hotline: 1-888-409-0141

Suicide and Crisis Hotline: 988

Upcoming Events

Diversity Training Sessions

WUDA has partnered with the Washington University School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) to provide a comprehensive professional-development curriculum that is specifically tailored to each member within the School of Medicine.

The curriculum is called Understanding Systemic Racism and will be provided to all members of the Washington University community from medical trainees, staff members, researchers, and clinical teams.

The first series of curriculum content is Diversity Modules 1- 4 which include (awareness, understanding, commitment, and action). The curriculum content will be led by team members from the ODEI consisting of psycho-educational presentations and interactive, hands-on and experiential exercises. This series of four one-hour training sessions introduces participants to the fundamentals of diversity education.

September 2022 – March 2023

Participation is an expected competency for all members.

Professional Development Workshops

Our department is offering four core workshops, one per month, beginning in November 2022 through February 2023. Each month there will be a 1-hour workshop on a development topic, a 1-hour workshop on a fundamental self-awareness or skill topic, and an optional Calm-based short course learning program.

Whatever your role is in our department…
Whatever your next professional goal might be…
Wherever your focus is, this series is for you.

Upcoming Events

Workshop 1 (select one):
– Tuesday, Nov. 1 @ 4 pm
– Monday, Nov. 7 @ 4 pm
– Saturday, Nov. 19 @ 4 pm

Workshop 2 (select one):
– Monday, Dec. 5 @ 4 pm
– Tuesday, Dec. 6 @ 4 pm
– Saturday, Dec. 10 @ 8 am

Workshop 3 (select one):
– Tuesday, Jan. 3 @ 4 pm
Monday, Jan. 9 @ 4 pm
– Saturday, Jan. 29 @ 3 pm

Workshop 4 (select one):
– Monday, Feb. 6 @ 4 pm
– Tuesday, Feb. 7 @ 4 pm
– Saturday, Feb. 19 @ 8 am

Save the date: Saturday, Feb. 4!

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our newest Well-Being/Professional Development/DEI initiative: Women of WUDA!

Women of WUDA will be women-led professional development with a focus on the specific needs of OUR department. We aim to have an annual retreat as well as continuing content, education, and networking opportunities throughout the year.

Keep an eye out for an invite to our inaugural retreat on February 4th for a morning of learning, networking, mentorship and well-being! More information, including how to RSVP, coming soon.

Please fill out the needs assessment survey to help us deliver the most relevant content:

Getting distracted or interrupted?
Try these focus tools from Calm!

We work in a distracting world. On top of everyday distractions in our personal lives, most of us spend more time on our devices than we would care to admit. Plus, interruptions at work can add to the distractions we’re already trying to manage as we try to get work done.

Strengthening your ability to focus, no matter what’s pulling your attention away from the task at hand, is a powerful tool in our mental health toolkit. And you can get started practicing your focus skills right now with Calm, our partner in mental well-being.

Calm has a library full of resources for you to get into the zone and build the mental resilience to perform your best at work. If you’re feeling distracted right now, why not try one of these resources below today?

  • Use the 7 Days of Focus meditation series to develop a practice that will help you reduce mind-wandering, stay present, and overcome distractions
  • Block out distractions with this Deep Focus playlist full of soothing ambient music, or try the Work Flow playlist with more upbeat, energetic tracks
  • Need a quick reset? Take 3 minutes to calm racing thoughts and get into a more peaceful mindset with this beginner-friendly Body Scan meditation