Dr. Megan Fix is an emergency physician at the University of Utah. For her, staying healthy is all about maintaining your balance, keeping activating, fostering healthy relationships, and knowing and loving oneself. Despite her busy schedule as the Associate Program Director, she makes a point to still keep family time for her husband and her boys. Her positive attitude about life long learning and going with the flow is something we could all learn from. Here’s how she stays healthy in EM!
- Name: Megan Fix
- Location: University of Utah
- Current job(s): Mother (of 3 boys) and wife; Associate Program Director, EM Residency; Director of MS4 Transitions Course, University of Utah School of Medicine
- One word that describes how you stay healthy: Positivity
- Primary behavior/activity for destressing: Recognizing how lucky I am, exercising most days, and finding joy in my family and my work.
What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?
- Balancing family and work. I have three amazing boys and one amazing husband. My kids are all under the age of 5 and keep me on my toes! I am very lucky to have a super supportive husband who takes care of all of us. For us, a shared Google calendar is key to make sure we are on top of shift schedules, school, activities, and time together. Another key for us is family meal time. We get a weekly CSA box with fresh organic vegetables and on most days cook at home. I love to cook, learn about different food, and involve me kids in healthy cooking process. It’s always a great time, and is actually a de-stressor activity for me. Being outside together is another key. I find that coming home to my family is rejuvenating and helps remind me that nothing beats sharing laughs, food, dirt, the outdoors, legos, cooking, and reading with those closest to you. Part of this is making sure to set aside time so that they know that I am Mom. This involves making sure that I’m efficient at work so that when I’m home, I’m really home. I rarely do work in front of them at home and try to maintain a positive attitude. If I find that I’m not patient with them, it alerts me to reset, breathe, and practice self-care.
- Exercise. I love exercise and being outdoors! I am one of those people who has always been active. From running to swimming to triathlons to cycling to hiking to interval training; I’m up for pretty much anything that gets my heart rate up and makes me sweat. In my former life I was a pretty competitive athlete, but after having kids, I have had to adjust my goals to keep active and maintain the ability to spend time with my family and work. Now exercise can take many forms and there are no rules, no requirements, and no guilt! In the past, I would spend a whole Saturday on a long road bike trip. Now I will take a shorter ride with all of the kids on a triple trailer (my bike, one Weehoo trailer, and then a double bike trailer behind that). I still run and mountain bike as much as I can, and even if I only have 20 minutes, I try to fit in a yoga workout at home (I sign up for yogatoday.com and can pick a variety of different classes/length of time/etc), or a TRX home trainer workout. We are very lucky to live in the mountains so during the winter we ski often and in the summer we mountain bike.
- Positive Attitude. This includes just accepting that anyone will come to the ED anytime for any complaint and my job is not to ask why they are there at 0300 with a toe ache, but to smile and treat them accordingly. I try to accept the things that come to me in life and spend my mental energy not worrying about them, but being thankful for the opportunities I have and trying to find enjoyment in all aspects of life. I try to find at least one great case, great teaching point, or great patient story per shift. Then I like to share this with the residents and other faculty around me. Being involved in resident and medical student education keeps me learning. And enthusiasm for learning is infectious!
What’s your ideal workout?
A long trail run or mountain bike ride, followed by an open water swim on a warm clear day! Right now in my life, any workout is a complete treat, and I try to do something every day.
Do you track your fitness? How?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I do use the Strava app for my bike rides and use the MapMyRun app for my runs. To be honest, sometimes I find that too much tracking of things can clutter my life. This is totally personal. I know it helps lots of folks stay on track, but my personality is to just do it when I can do it and enjoy it!
How do you prepare for a night shift? How do you recover from one?
I am lucky that for our attending group we usually only work 2 overnight shifts/month. I tend to work Thursday overnights so that I can have the day free to spend with my kids and then head to work. This works great for me because all of the kids are in school on Friday so I can sleep well post overnight. I try to be active (library story time with the kids followed by the park or another outside activity) during the day before the overnight, then have dinner with the kids at 6pm, and put them and myself to bed soon after. Our overnights start at midnight so that usually means I can get a good chunk of nap in before and then sleep a good 5 hours or so after the shift as well. I always have coffee on my overnights too, then stop drinking coffee around 3 am so that I can sleep when I get home.
How do you avoid getting “hangry” (angry due to hunger) on shift?
Great question as this is super important for maintaining power during shifts! I always bring a water bottle with me and fill it up regularly on shift. I find that lack of hydration is worse for me than lack of food. I do always eat some type of lunch (brought from home, obtained in cafeteria, obtained at our 24 hour Starbucks right next to the ED) and we have a culture of the overnight attending bringing snacks for the midnight shift. The food that comes in at midnight totally helps moral and hanger for the evening folks!
How do you ensure you are mentally in check?
A wise person once told me, “You are the only person that you will live with for your entire life, so you might as well love yourself.” I couldn’t agree with this more. By being supportive and strong in my own mind, I am a better doctor, mother, and wife. I have a family history of depression so it’s important for me to remember to stay positive and not let things get me down.
What are the biggest challenges you face in maintaining a longstanding career in EM? How do you address these challenges?
I hope to have a long, fulfilling career in EM by trying to keep up a few things: balance, enthusiasm, and consistent learning. As mentioned previously on multiple posts in this series, balance is key to maintaining health in your career. Avoiding burnout takes knowing yourself and knowing what you need to maintain balance.
For me, it is exercise and a healthy relationship with my family. Enthusiasm is my marker of how emotionally fatigued I am. If I am not enthusiastic about a shift, a teaching opportunity, or spending time with my family, then I know that I am off balance. Which is a sign for me to care of myself by either exercising, going to yoga, or getting in some free time.
Finally, my personality needs academic interactions, teaching, and learning to maintain a healthy enthusiasm for the chaos that is emergency medicine. For me this involves combining clinical work with academic time. I find my academic days spent teaching or mentoring re-charge my enthusiasm for medicine and keep me motivated.
Best advice you have received for maintaining health?
Love yourself and enjoy every day!
Who would you love for us to track down to answer these questions?