Healthy Sarah Mott

Times are hard, work is stressful. With 24/7 news and constant global pandemic updates, our once prized “work stays at work and home stays at home” mentality can be hard to maintain. With that, it seemed like an opportune time to revamp our “How I stay healthy in EM” series. In these posts, we will have a blend of community and academic EM physicians share words of wisdom, wellness hacks, and “a day in the life.” Please let us know if you have resources to share and would like to be featured or would like to hear from anyone in particular.

To start, we look to Dr. Sarah Mott, our new series editor.

Words of Wisdom

During my third year of medical school, my family medicine preceptor posed a simple question, “What is the emotion patients most commonly feel when they see a doctor?” The answer is fear. They’re afraid – perhaps of a new diagnosis like cancer, perhaps of feeling judged, maybe of a specific test or procedure, maybe of just being honest – and it’s our job as physicians to listen and meet them in that scary place. When we remember that our patients are humans just like us, we can connect in meaningful ways and provide more compassionate and competent care. Making a point to get to know our patients beyond their room number and chief complaint can go a long way in establishing rapport and serving as a reminder of why we signed up for this crazy job!

And always remember – you are enough. 

A Day in the Life of an Evening/Swing Shift-er

Morning wake up

Set Google home alarm for 9:30 AM…then say “Okay Google, turn off that alarm” approximately 5 times.

Pre-Shift 10 AM – 3:30 PM

I tend to be fairly unproductive with emails, paper-writing, or anything that requires much thought before shifts so I reserve this time for water/hydration, puppy, and physical activity. Basically, I do everything I can to avoid my computer knowing I’ll be on it for the next 9 hours at work.


I brought home a rescue puppy 1.5 years ago and it has been SO worth it. I definitely underestimated how amazing it is to have a friend that is always excited to see me. We love walks, practicing skills after graduating from puppy school (hi, I’m a proud dog mom), naps, and dog parks.

Exercise and fresh air…ideally simultaneously!

I’ve yet to find a better way to decompress than moving around and getting outside! The best birthday gift last year was a paddleboard which is perfect for tooling around, listening to music, and people watching on the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis. Other go-to’s are biking along the Mississippi or Minnesota river, running, and anything else that gets me out and moving!


Work 5 PM – 1 AM

Music going in

I will listen to anything and everything outside of heavy metal and EDM. Concerts are probably my favorite thing, especially outdoors and in the summer, but I also have a steady stream of Spotify playlists.

Podcasts going out

I try to catch up on the news first. Then binge on True Crime (I’ve listened to almost all of them so ask if you need recs), try to learn some random facts, and occasionally find some super inspirational people. Current (and old) favorites:

  • News: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, NPR Up First
  • True Crime: Dateline, Serial, Dr. Death
  • Human Interest: Finding Fred
  • “Softer side of Medicine”: Stimulus with Rob Orman
  • Random factoids: TED Talks/Radio Hour

Post-Shift 2 AM – Until whenever I fall asleep?

Snacks and wine

Enough said?

Non-medical reading

I’m a voracious reader of anything and everything! During the winter, I read on the treadmill and/or elliptical. I borrow books from my local library using the CloudLibrary app which makes it easy to download free books directly onto my iPad. If you’re willing to pay, the Kindle app is also great and easily syncs with Amazon Prime accounts. Amazon Prime also has a decent selection of free options and allows members to download one book at a time.



Crafty things

I try to spend at least a few minutes working on the right side of my brain and am a big fan of arts & crafts and puzzles. I’ve gotten into adult coloring books but also love nail/string art, woodburning, and making jewelry. Puzzles are also a great escape.

Wellness Hacks

Create a routine

Establishing pre/post-shift routines can be super helpful. Exercise, music, food before/during/after shifts, wine at night, etc. can all offer some sense of control. If a regular schedule is important, talk to your scheduler. You never know what kind of schedule and routine is available unless you ask!

Buy FIGS scrubs

Wow, game changer. I had no idea what a difference owning comfortable scrubs that fit could make. I’m still not sure who the standard surgical scrubs were made for but it definitely wasn’t petite females. Watch for discounts on the website or listserve and make the investment. I promise you won’t regret it.

Snacks and caffeine

I’ve always been a snacker and having food on shift is crucial because I definitely get hangry.  Flat Stacks containers (easily smash down to become super compact, are reusable, lightweight, and functional) with berries, veggies, peanut butter puffins please, Quest protein bars, and Angie’s light kettle corn are heavy on the rotation right now.

Speed up your learning/listening

I listen to podcasts (and everything I can) at 2x speed which has been key for efficiency. I actually started doing this in med school with lectures and now I’ll never go back. For podcasts, I use the Castbox app. YouTube and EMRap also allow you to adjust the speed.

More Wellness

Dr. Sarah Mott nominates Dr. Adaira Landry, Dr. Keith Henry, and Dr. Mike Paddock to share how they stay healthy in EM.

Any and all feedback is welcome as we resurrect this series! We would be happy to hear from you, especially if you have specific wellness resources to share, would like to be featured, or are interested in hearing from any particular EM rockstars.

Sarah Mott, MD

Sarah Mott, MD

Chief Logistics Officer ALiEM Wellness Think Tank 2019-20
Staff Emergency Physician
Emergency Care Consultants