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Wellness in Emergency Medicine: the importance of gratitude during times of crisis

iu west heroes

Coauthored by Julie Welch, MD, and Kari Lemme, MD

Current events are unfolding at breakneck speed, leaving people dazed in the wake of a rapidly-spreading global pandemic that’s waging war on our communities, the economy, and even the very idea of life as we know it. During turbulent times of crisis, it is easy to feel scared or overwhelmed as normal surroundings begin to feel unfamiliar and usual means of connection are disrupted by new, often unseen forces. People have to learn to adapt in the face of adversity and find ways to remain grounded through uncertain circumstances. Sometimes, though, all it takes is a small act like expressing gratitude to put everything else into perspective.

Did you know that expressing gratitude can improve a person’s well being as well as their relationships with others? Expressing gratitude is a small act that can make a big impact on a person’s overall mood and perspective. In this article from Harvard Medical School, the author makes the point that, “with gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives.” Taking time to acknowledge the goodness in life is important during times of crisis as it allows a person to shift their perspective, calm fear and anxiety, and maintain a positive outlook in an uncertain situation. In addition, “…people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals—whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.” Expressing gratitude can help people feel more connected to others and maintain overall wellness through a positive outlook and connection to something larger than themselves.

There are many ways you can show gratitude. Write a thank you email. Send a friend a text to let them know you appreciate the work they are doing. Start a gratitude journal and write down 2 things each day that you are thankful for. For emotional and spiritual well being, give thanks through prayer or meditation. You can even use a phone app like Gratitude Plus to keep track of things you're grateful for and reflect on them in the future.

Communities around the nation are showing support of everyone fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis. The #LightItBlue campaign is a shining example of community gratitude, as buildings across the nation are lit in blue in support of everyone on the frontlines.

lightitbluelight it blue 2

We asked our EM family what they’re grateful during this time of crisis and their responses were overwhelmingly positive.

I am so grateful to the residents and fellows we work with every day. They have been thrown into this, as have we, and have stepped up to the plate. As the pandemic has enfolded, I have watched them “opt in” to this risky patient care, with an eagerness and willingness to learn, as well as commitment to care for our patients. I am reminded we have some of the best trainees around. Their fortitude gives me strength, as I know they have made sacrifices in their lives too.

Kari Lemme, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine

I am grateful for my colleagues and am honored to work with them. I have been amazed by the support and ability for the medical community to band together at this time. There is no one else I'd rather stand on the front lines with than the men and women of IUEM.

Jaclyn H. Jansen Yi, MD, MS, Emergency Medicine Residency Program, PGY-2

I feel a deep sense of gratitude in being part of a very collective effort of humanity, using all our different strengths, abilities, and skills to help one another understand, navigate, and overcome the challenges we currently face.

Hallie Brown, MD, Emergency Medicine Residency Program, PGY 2

Coronavirus has affected everyone’s lives adversely, but it has been amazing to see people forget themselves and give so generously. I am grateful for the many selfless members of the community who have given of their time, talents, and money to support those of us on the frontlines. The only way we will get through this is together!

Alex Doxey, MD, Emergency Medicine Residency Program, PGY-3

I am most grateful for the people I get to work alongside. More than ever we have come together to deliver great care to our patients and I am so thankful for the friendships and opportunity to know such wonderful people.

Devin Doos, MD, Chief Resident, Emergency Medicine Residency Program

I have felt tons of support as both a physician and a human. My yoga community has been a great source of strength for me. We continue to have classes and check in over zoom and several of the teachers have given me well wishes and thanks for being a doctor in this time. I love all the community chalk and signs people have been putting out. Someone chalked their fence along the monon to say “ thanks nurses and doctors” and that really stood out to me. My significant other also works in medicine and we have revived lots of cards, calls, and texts from family. Although this is a horrible time in history for so many reasons, I have seen so many heartwarming acts of community that keep me going.

Kara Kowalczyk, MD, Fellow, Pediatric Emergency Medicine

At the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine, we cannot express how much we appreciate the outpouring of support from both colleagues and the community as our physicians stand on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis. The pictures, videos, and kind gestures remind our physicians and providers that we’re standing with them in solidarity as they fight to keep us all safe and healthy.

hero 3 sidewalk 1  hero 2
 road view  thank you sign 3  thank you sign
 hero 4  hero 5  girl w sign
 musey  thank you 1  thank you 2
 jackie thank you 2   we got this
 socks  donation 1  donation 2
 zoom  thank you note 1  

Follow the links below to check out more messages of gratitude to our frontline physicians and providers!

1.Worship and Prayer Vigil at IU Health West Hospital

2. News coverage on the vigil at IU Health West Hospital

3. Tribute to healthcare workers on Youtube--submitted by Dr. Kari Lemme

4. TV doctors say thank you to real health care workers in sweet video

5. COVID-19 together we will rise up YouTube tribute

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Emmy Schram

Emmy Schram is the Communications Coordinator for the Department of Emergency Medicine. She earned her MA in English from Ball State where she taught English Composition while working as a freelance graphic/web designer. She brings with her varied professional experiences which she uses to support departmental communications efforts while finding new ways to combine her passions for marketing and education.