Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being

Being Present and Personal Growth

September 09, 2021 Washington State University Health Sciences Season 1 Episode 1
Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being
Being Present and Personal Growth
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Jen Barber and medical student Liz Thomas both work at Kaiser Permanente, where they see their fair share of stressful moments. Liz picks up a lot of cues working with Dr. Barber, including how to deal with the everyday challenges in their field. Dr. Barber sets an example in her hospital by showing her staff perfection is not attainable, but a growth mindset is. Liz has learned about mindfulness and how human connection goes far in reducing burnout, which adds to the scope of personally practicing good mental health.

“Finding Joy: The Health Care Professional’s Journey to Well-being" is a podcast resource developed by a team of interprofessional education researchers from Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane. They’re promoting well-being among students, faculty, and healthcare professionals during challenging times. Funding is provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The Interprofessional Education Research team wishes to thank the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this project:

• Dr. Barb Richardson, nurse, educator, and interprofessional champion;

• Cameron Cupp, creator of the “Finding Joy” musical score and current enrollee at WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine;

• Washington State University staff from Marketing and Communications, Financial Services, and the Collaboration for Interprofessional Health Education Research and Scholarship; and

• Claire Martin-Tellis, Executive Producer, and Solen Aref, student intern, who developed the first five episodes of the “Finding Joy” podcast.

This episode of “Finding Joy” was produced by Doug Nadvornick, Program Director, Spokane Public Radio.

If you would like to reach out, please contact our team by sending an email to: We also encourage you to visit our podcast blog as well as our team's website at:

Audio file

Finding Joy:

Episode 1 Transcript


00 Speaker 1 Health care workers are under an immense amount of pressure in their day-to-day lives, some days are better than others in the journey to find balance. This podcast will explore how doctors, nurses, medical students, and other health professionals are attempting to reduce pressures in their lives, reduce the feeling of burnout at work. This is their journey, Finding Joy. 36 Speaker 2 Hi, I'm Liz Thomas, a third year Washington State University medical student studying family medicine under Doctor Barber at Kaiser in Everett, WA. 46 Speaker 3 Hi, I'm Jen Barber. My patients usually know me as doctor B or JB. So, I have been practicing for 12 years out of Med school, nine years out of residency. So, I specialize in family medicine, and I work at Kaiser Permanente in Everett, WA, and I live about a mile and a half away from there. So, it's a gorgeous commute.


08 Speaker 2 I grew up in Los Angeles and I moved to Seattle when, in my early 20s and I started teaching in my early 20s and a lot of, I taught biology at the primarily at Bellevue College and I found that I loved the material. I mean I loved the, I love the science behind biology and human physiology, and I loved talking about it. But what I loved the most was all the practical application and how I could use that to better peoples lives. So, that's what kind of led me down the path of looking into medicine. It also helped a lot of my students were pre-meds and so I spend a lot of time around them and they rubbed off on me in a good way. 52 Speaker 3 So, I told my pediatrician when I was about five that I was going to be a doctor, so I'd keep my promises. So, I thought I should not let him down and I want to say I don't really know where that came from. I think that medicine is a calling, so I think that I just knew very early on. My mom has always worked in medical offices. Kind of back-office, billing, that kind of stuff. So, I grew up around a lot of that that entity that entirety and knew kind of consistently through that I wanted to be a doctor.


30 Speaker 1 Work at the clinic can often be hectic. Through the years Doctor Barber has found practicing mindfulness helps her stay grounded and remain alert and focused on the care of her patients. 42 Speaker 3 I've realized that when I'm stuck in a difficult patient encounter, I stay in that patient encounter. I sit and I settle in, and I realize that I am gonna wait for it to develop because at this moment I need to be here and so I'm trying to be present and not think about all of the other things that I have to do; the paperwork, the meetings, the notes, anything like that or what I just came from. That truly being present focused in practicing mindfulness, I know we all talk about. It's like the Gucci thing now in medicine but true and true mindfulness practice will, and has, helped me in my day-to-day. Day-to-day life with stress. So, I intentionally and I've also talked to many colleagues on this; I slow down because that gives me time and space, even if just for a moment. So, I practice almost time-stretching. How do I make it feel like this connection, if I'm spending 10 minutes with a patient, how do I make that feel very thorough and have a connection piece? So, that they don't leave feeling, you know, ignored, or not talked to. So, I do that, practicing mindfulness throughout the day, so taking a moment to take a breath. In medicine, we wash our hands a lot, so I start every patient encounter with going over to the sink and washing my hands. I may be saying hello and how are you at the time, but I'm also taking a moment for myself and visualizing that whatever happened, I'm washing that off of my hands. Whatever happened the moment before I came in the room, whatever may happen when I leave, I'm kind of centering myself and grounding myself into that experience, to be truly present and to be who I think most people want or need their family doctor to be.


40 Speaker 1 Part of that mindfulness practice is realizing there's always room for growth. 45 Speaker 2 I live within walking distance of the of her clinic and so I every time I walk back home after, you know, the clinic is done for the day, I end up calling my mom just to check in and tell her, you know, I'm still alive and all that. And she's always, she can always tell when I've been with Doctor Barbara, because she always says, you're so happy and you're so upbeat and I can tell you're tired, but you know there's just this special tone in your voice whenever you've had a date with her. Well, she definitely embodies the idea of a growth mindset, and the most wonderful thing that I, and the thing that I loved most about working with her is not only does she endorse that, she also practices it herself. I mean, we all have days where we're not at her best and herself included, and she acknowledges that and says, you know what? That's OK. Tomorrow we'll try and be better and it's really wonderful and refreshing to be with somebody that practices what they preach, you know? And part of the experience of being a third-year medical student is you're just always the dumbest person in the room, right? It's just the nature of the beast and you always end up just missing some piece of information that's obvious to everybody else, but because you're, you haven't been there because this is your first time in that experience, you just missed that obvious information, and she never made me feel like I was, you know, I was lesser, or I was dumb, or I was stupid for asking that. And which is again, which is unique amongst really anybody, let alone physicians.


34 Speaker 3 Because usually when you come to rotate with me within the first day, I am reminding you if not the first sentence after I introduce myself, is that medicine is an open book test. So, all you have to do is know when you don't know and be curious. So, I talk a lot about curiosity. That sparks seeking out answers, that sparks the helpfulness. When you don't think that you have to know it all and so my day, I do not go a day without learning something new. And part of why I like students is because I ask me questions, I don't know the answer to and it's very much, I think, it's good for them to hear I don't know, I've been practicing medicine for this amount of years and I have no idea. Let's look this up together. How do we frame that? How do you feel comfortable with not knowing? But that's the fun part. You know if I knew everything, how boring would that be?


33 Speaker 2 There's definitely been time where I've been beating on myself a little bit after maybe a particularly bad day where it's like, oh I missed some crucial piece of information that I should have really gotten. But she always looks at me and she always says, you did the best that you could in the situation that you were in, and the most important thing to do is to learn from it. And that's OK and we move on. And she's always been really good at reframing those situations, where you could walk away feeling like you did terribly. She reframes them into an opportunity for learning rather than, you know, rather than just, this is a terrible day. It's, you know, I'm not getting anything from this today.


23 Speaker 1 Stress and burnout can manifest in many ways. For Doctor Barber engaging with her patients can help serve as a reminder of why she got into medicine in the first place. 34 Speaker 3 A lot of family medicine itself is just connection and rapport, and so because it's built in small moments of time over, hopefully long periods of time, that takes time into practicing. So that you bring that with you into every encounter. Because I don't think it's fair for anybody, if I'm having a bad day to come in, you know and put that on someone else. So a lot of the times I'm transparent with it. My patients, when they know you over time, they can tell when you're stressed out. They can tell when, maybe, you're a little quick with it, and so I've always appreciated when my patients call me out on it. And they do it, they can do it in a kind way, in a humorous way. But they say, hey doc, you know? You look, you look like you're having a busy day. And then that just deescalates, so I think it's that human connection that can bring on this silver lining because you find that in moments throughout the day so that that high stress and pressure is broken up by true moments of human connection and interaction. And that I know that they're also looking out for my well-being so that they see me as a person and that helps to take down the barrier and the disconnection that I think can happen with a lot of burn-out when you're not experiencing people and meeting people where they are. You're more either past tense rumination or present future tense, right? So, you're not truly in the moment. So, I will find a pick out whether it's a couple of seconds to laugh with a colleague to give that moment to myself to address those needs. That allows me to have the energy to keep going, and most of it is caffeine, but a lot of it is just actually human connection and interconnection.


17 Speaker 1 Even when you love what you do, a break can be good. 21 Speaker 3 Nobody works 365 days. Nobody just, you know, lives breathes and eats medicine. You've got to have that balance on that side. The place to where you can let it go. And so, I've tried very hard over my career to learn how to compartmentalize, but not in an attached way; in a way that brings balance. Well, the underpinning, anytime you can make a silver lining, which I tend to do, I tend to find the good in a situation. That has come though from resiliency from being put into uncomfortable and stressful situations and I have to I absolutely have to credit residency because that's a gauntlet. And I have to credit the Navy, the military and being on an aircraft carrier.


06 Speaker 1 In the end, Liz says it best. 09 Speaker 2 I recognize that people are all kind of making it up as they go along, and that is sort of the normal state of humanity. And for me to feel like I am still making it up as I go along, doesn't necessarily mean that I'm incompetent. It just means that I am learning, and I am right where I need to be. 30 Speaker 1 If you have a unique way of minimizing burnout in the medical field, let us know! Email This podcast series is made for the Washington State University Elson S Floyd College of Medicine and funded by the Health Resources Service Administration grant number T0BHP33106.