I am Dr. Linda Regan, EM Program Director: How I Stay Healthy in EM

2017-09-09T15:26:01+00:00

Dr. Linda Regan is an emergency physician from Baltimore, Maryland. When she’s not on shift, she can be found taking care of her residents and colleagues, always placing others before herself. Dr. Regan’s holistic approach to her career and everyday life is something for all of us to emulate! When she’s not occupied with one of her many jobs, she can be found enjoying time with family and friends. Here’s how she stays healthy in EM!


  • Name: Linda Regan, MD
  • Location: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD
  • Current job(s): Program Director, Emergency Medicine Residency; Vice Chair for Education; Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
  • One word that describes how you stay healthy: Support-network
  • Primary behavior/activity for de-stressing: Phone a trusted friend

What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?

  1. Connect with other people. I am a big believer in emotional and mental health. For me, as an extroverted person, I find energy and emotional “fuel” from being around other people, talking about what’s on my mind, and finding ways to feel connected to my friends, co-workers, and family.
  2. Find time for sleep. Without 7-8 hours of sleep a night, I definitely notice that my outlook and attitude suffers. I protect my sleep time and make it a priority.
  3. Schedule time to exercise. It is easy to sacrifice my time to head to the gym when another meeting pops up or someone needs something. A few years ago, I decided to schedule it on my calendar 2-3 times a week. Now, I don’t feel guilty taking the time to go.  It may be silly, but it worked!

What’s your ideal workout?

I like structure and having a plan before I get to the gym. Typically, I combine 30 minutes of cardio with 30-40 minutes of core and strength training.

Do you track your fitness? How?

It’s on my calendar, so I know I went to the gym. I tried using a Fitbit, but it didn’t inspire me, so I gave it to one of my kids!

How do you prepare for a night shift? How do you recover from one?

Pre-shift: When I used to do more than 1 night a month, I would split them up, as I could never sleep for more than 4-5 hours and was never feeling mentally ready to get back to work on the next day. Before any night shift, I try to lay down for at least 2 hours. I purposefully don’t drink any caffeine after 12pm and try to lay down sometime between 4 – 6pm or 7 – 9pm. This allows me to either nap before dinner with my kids, or afterwards, and still not miss bedtime. My overnight shifts start at 11pm, so either option gives me plenty of time to get ready.

Post-shift: I go home, eat a light breakfast, and head to bed with some ear plugs and dark shades. I only sleep for 4-5 hours, and then go to bed at my usual time to get a full 8 hours of sleep.

How do you avoid getting “hangry” (angry due to hunger) on shift?

I have Celiac Disease, so I learned a long time ago to always have snacks with me. My department is so busy that I rarely get away for more than a few minutes, but I bring peanut butter sandwiches, protein packs (you can buy them in the deli section with turkey/cheese/almonds), protein bars, or other quick items. I’m also a pretzel fiend! I always have a bag of gluten free pretzels hidden somewhere! I actually warn my residents that I get “hangry” and give them permission to ask me, “Do you need a snack?”

How do you ensure you are mentally in check?

As the Program Director, I enter the ED cognizant that everything I do and say might impact any one of my residents. In addition, as an ED doc, we are always on display. A long time ago, a smart person once said to me, “If you wouldn’t want it on the front page of the paper, don’t do it in public.” I think this is a good rule and I try to abide by it, in particular when I am in situations where I know I may have a trigger that raises my blood pressure.

As for emotional stress, I think you need to assess your readiness to be at work on a daily basis, in particular if you are under personal or physical stress. In my many years as an EM doc, I have sent myself home once. My father was moving to hospice after an exhausting 2-month decline and as I listened to a patient tell me about whatever they were there for, I realized I actually didn’t care! I finished the H&P, left the room, went to the other attending, and told him we needed to activate jeopardy. Paying attention to your empathy – your ability to provide compassion – is essential. Allowing yourself to step away is as well.

What are the biggest challenges you face in maintaining a longstanding career in EM? How do you address these challenges?

One of my biggest challenges early on in my career was finding good mentorship, in particular, mentorship that could help me focus my interests, and help me feel like I was not failing in either the personal or professional part of job. I actively sought mentors, both inside and outside of EM. Realize early on that you will need mentors for ALL aspects of your career.

My biggest challenge remains finding ways to put my own work and personal needs above those of my residents, my colleagues, or essentially anyone who asks me to do anything. Someone once asked me to think of myself as one of my friends, and then do for me as I would for them. It was great advice!

Best advice you have received for maintaining health?

Remember that being “healthy” is about the whole package: how you feel about yourself, what makes you feel good or bad, what gives you energy or what takes it away. You should spend as much time developing knowledge about this, as you do planning your exercise routine or healthy meals.

Who would you love for us to track down to answer these questions?

Julianna Jung
Elise Lovell
Moira Davenport


Zafrina Poonja, MD

Zafrina Poonja, MD

ALiEM Assistant Editor,
How I Stay Health in EM series
Emergency Medicine Resident
University of Alberta