Home Health & Wellness New Study Identifies 4 Phases of Self-Care Development in Healthcare Trainees

New Study Identifies 4 Phases of Self-Care Development in Healthcare Trainees

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A new study from the University of Saskatchewan has shed light on the natural development of self-care practices among healthcare trainees. The research, published in the Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, offers a comprehensive theory on how these future professionals cultivate effective self-care habits, a crucial factor in mitigating the adverse effects of stress and burnout in their demanding careers.

Self-care is essential for healthcare professionals, as it helps maintain a balance between personal and professional lives, supporting mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Despite its importance, self-care practices are often underutilised by healthcare trainees. This study, led by Jessica Campoli and Jorden A. Cummings, sought to fill the gap by exploring how these practices naturally develop during the formative years of healthcare training .

The researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with 17 students across various healthcare disciplines, including medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, and psychology. Using grounded theory methodology, they identified four iterative phases that trainees go through to become successful in self-care: having a wake-up call, building skills, gaining confidence, and building an identity.

  1. Having a wake-up call. This initial phase often involves a significant event or realisation that underscores the importance of self-care. It acts as a catalyst, prompting trainees to prioritise their well-being.
  2. Building skills. In this phase, trainees start developing practical self-care skills. This includes learning specific techniques and strategies to manage stress and maintain health.
  3. Gaining confidence. As trainees practice self-care, they begin to gain confidence in their ability to maintain these habits. This phase is characterised by increased self-efficacy and a belief in the personal and professional benefits of self-care.
  4. Building an identity. The final phase involves integrating self-care into one’s professional identity. Trainees who reach this stage see self-care as a non-negotiable part of their routine, essential for their overall effectiveness and ethical practice in their careers.

The study also identified several challenges trainees face in developing self-care practices. These include a perceived lack of time, concerns about confidentiality, financial constraints, and a lack of supportive environments. Many trainees reported that without a structured plan, self-care often gets neglected, especially during busy periods .

To address these challenges, the researchers recommend that healthcare training programmes should:

  • Augment naturally occurring processes. Curriculum developers should build on what trainees are already doing successfully, rather than imposing new, unrelated self-care practices.
  • Link self-care to personal values. Effective self-care strategies should be personalised and aligned with individual values, making them more meaningful and easier to sustain.
  • Provide opportunities for deliberate practice. Trainees should have structured opportunities to practice self-care strategies, receive feedback, and make necessary adjustments to their plans.
  • Promote faculty support and acceptance. Faculty and supervisors should model self-care, provide a supportive environment, and encourage open conversations about self-care needs.

This study is the first to offer a grounded theory explaining how health trainees naturally develop successful self-care habits. The findings have significant implications for the design of self-care interventions and curricula in healthcare education. By understanding and supporting the natural development of self-care practices, educators can better prepare trainees to manage the demands of their professions and deliver high-quality, ethical care .

The researchers call for further studies with more diverse samples to refine and expand the theoretical model. They also highlight the need to explore organisational and systemic factors that impact trainees’ self-care, such as work-hour flexibility and institutional support .

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