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Should our staff have spa days?

October 16, 2017
by H. Steven Moffic
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Much controversy has arisen over our governmental relief efforts in Puerto Rico after the devastation from Hurricane Maria. Among these media reports, one especially got my attention.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow broke the story, reporting that a senior physician, who had been on many humanitarian missions, quit the mission in Puerto Rico, apparently angry that federal medical workers treated themselves to a “spa day,” funded by taxpayer money. They received manicures and pedicures from local Puerto Rican residents, according to the report.

Sounds pretty bad at first glance—or at the very least in poor taste. But is it really as bad as it sounds? Could it even be something to admire?

Self-care is important

Given the enormous stress of working in disaster relief and the compassion fatigue that can ensue, couldn’t taking care of the caregivers actually help in the long run? Refreshed, might they not go back to work with renewed energy and enthusiasm?

Though at times, we all may have some acute stress in our workplace, our challenge is related more to the toll that our everyday work can take on our well-being and to the epidemic of clinician burn-out. Maintaining our well-being can mean taking brief breaks during the work day, periodic “mental health days” and using our allotted vacation time, among other self-care activities. It means empowering staff to suggest things that may help to prevent burn-out.

What does your setting offer to enhance staff well-being? Such well-being also seems to correlate with better quality of care. If not a spa day, what wellness activities are supported? Are your staff members empowered to make suggestions that are taken seriously?

Maybe there is more to the Puerto Rico spa story that would warrant the doctor’s criticism and resignation. Time will tell, but regardless, providing caregivers with needed relief is to be admired.




H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic, M.D. retired from the clinical practice of psychiatry and his tenured...

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