Dr. Carolyn Snider (@DrCarolynSnider) is an emergency physician currently practicing in Winnipeg, MB. Her passions for traveling, expression through music, and trying new things are part of her secrets for maintaining wellness. Dr. Snider is also the principal investigator and developer of the Emergency Department Violence Intervention Program. When not at work or doing research, she is usually out with her daughter on a great adventure! Her “when in Rome…” approach to life is something we could use more of! Check out how she stays healthy in EM!

  • Name: Carolyn Sniderwave photo
  • Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Current job(s): Mom, Wife, Friend, Sister, Traveler, Chorister, Karate-ka, Emergency Physician, and Researcher
  • One word that describes how you stay healthy: Variety
  • Primary behavior/activity for destressing: Singing

What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?

  1. Travel. I regularly feed this addiction. I have traveled to 32 countries, only 164 more to go! We often travel with our daughter who is a great adventurer, and look forward to many more adventures with her in the future.
  1. Date night. My husband and I have a standing babysitter once a week that allows us to make sure we put the time aside to spend quality time together. We usually sign up for a different type of class each year. When we first arrived in Winnipeg, we embraced the “When in Rome…” approach and took curling lessons. This year we are taking French lessons together. We often make an evening out of it, which means going out to dinner after, where we dream together, and then proceed to come up with ways to make our dreams a reality.
  1. Singing. I sing in a gospel choir, along with my daughter. (I’m actually not religious – but who doesn’t love gospel music! Plus we occasionally go out for drinks afterwards!) Singing with 80 people, who are anywhere between 8 and 80 years old, is an incredible feeling! I look forward to every practice and performance. I always come out feeling mentally and physically exhausted, but exhilarated at the same time. The bonding, acceptance, laughs, and welcoming atmosphere is pretty amazing. I have made close friends with some wonderful people. I truly believe this is a big part of my emotional health. I also sing on shift (when it is appropriate)… I believe in laughing and loving what we do clinically. The ED Staff at HSC know that they can count on some singing and dancing on most of my shifts. Allowing myself to enjoy the space and people I’m with, no matter the WTBS count on the board, lightens the stress that we face in our everyday job. And getting the cranky colleague to crack a smile is always a sweet success.

What’s your ideal workout?

A 90 minute karate class. My body is sweaty but my mind invigorated afterwards. Martial arts is incredibly empowering. I makes me feel physically strong and confident, which helps my clinical confidence when I’m in charge. Whenever I need to be a bit assertive at work, I’ve got the stance, the face, and kiai ready.

Do you track your fitness? How?

I have now washed three FitBits in my laundry… so that kind of tracking wasn’t meant to be. My home workout machine automatically uploads my workouts so I do keep track of that info.

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

Preparation: I have an early dinner and then my 4 year old daughter puts me to bed. She reads me a book and then sings me to “sleep” for a few hours solid rest. I have one coffee at the start of my night shift and then try to stick to water for the rest of the shift, followed by a 4 am fruit smoothie.

Recovery: I recover with a healthy, filling breakfast and then sleep until about 1 or 2 pm. I’ve recently installed room-darkening blinds and they seem to be helping a lot.

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

I try to have a snacks on hand.

How do you ensure you are mentally in check?

If I start getting snappy, then I’m not in check. It usually means I either need to eat, sleep, or take a day off.

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

Acknowledging the tragedy we see and not feeling helpless about it is a big challenge. I have tried to address this by choosing a research career that involves advocacy for vulnerable people. The research I do is with youth who are injured by violence – a difficult and at times trying population. In Winnipeg, I developed an Emergency Department Violence Intervention Program. Every week, I hear of the amazing successes that the youth achieve. You can see some of the successes in this video

This keeps me motivated to keep doing my research and advocacy work. And it is incredibly helpful in the ED. With these kids reframing my view, I have learned to use a trauma-informed approach in my clinical work. It isn’t a far reach to see the vulnerable, addicted, violently injured people in the Emergency Department as the awesome people who they truly are. We just need to help them find ways to address the many barriers in their way.

I am also pretty aware of the tragic side of our jobs and the trauma that we see. I will often debrief with the team after a death or difficult patient encounter. I believe that the relationships we build with patients are incredibly powerful. Of course they are different than the one that a family physician or specialist has with a patient; however, we are often there at the most acute, traumatic times. Our relationship with a patient can have a big impact on them and on us.

Best advice you have received for maintaining health?

Remember your family. They will never really care that you published another article or worked that extra shift. I dedicated the mornings, early evenings, and weekends when I’m not working, to family time. I’ve played oodles of UNO and love heading out on mini-adventures to the park to play Ninja Spy Princess with my 4 year old. My phone is pretty much ignored until after her bedtime.

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

Brian Rowe
Carole Pitter
James Maskalyk

Zafrina Poonja, MD

Zafrina Poonja, MD

Editor, How I Stay Healthy in EM series
Emergency Medicine Resident
University of Alberta
Zafrina Poonja, MD


Emergency Medicine Physician @ Vancouver General Hospital. Assistant Editor @ALiEMteam. Lover of travel, soccer, and boat shoes.