Dr. Victoria Brazil is an emergency physician from Australia’s Gold Coast. Despite her busy schedule, Dr. Brazil still takes the time to stay well and appreciate her environment around her. When she isn’t working in the ED or on academic work, she can be found fitting in a run or spending time with her family. Being an experienced clinician, Dr. Brazil provides us with solid advice for maintaining our careers. Here’s how she stays healthy in EM!
- Name: Victoria Brazil
- Location: Gold Coast, Australia
- Current job(s): Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of Simulation, Bond University and Gold Coast Health
- One word that describes how you stay healthy: Habit
- Primary behavior/activity for destressing: Running….and working (!) – more on that later.
What are the top 3 ways you keep healthy?
- Location. I live at the beach. No, really… AT the beach – my apartment looks out over the sand and ocean waves. The sun rises over the Pacific every morning and I have important “jobs” to do when I wake up – like seeing if there are any whales swimming past.
- Exercise. I run and play tennis. The running is my version of meditation I guess. Problems seem to solve themselves after I get back from a run. Tennis is for play. It’s energetic, but is also one of those ‘flow state’ activities where you have to concentrate and focus. Somehow, it’s weirdly relaxing to do so. I have done more core work (ie. Pilates and personal training) over the last 3 years, but I don’t enjoy it as much.
- Sleep. I often go to bed really early. I know how different my performance and productivity is depending on how much sleep I have had (#nodenial). I get up really early in summer, a life long habit, and so getting into bed at 8 pm is not unusual (to the frustration of others who live more normal hours).
What’s your ideal workout?
A running race where I have a modest time goal, and maybe someone around with my ability, so that I can be vaguely competitive.
Do you track your fitness? How?
I wore one of those bands to track sleep for a while but quickly got sick of it. I have a Garmin GPS watch to track pace and distance when running, which I use for races and training. On a good day I am 4:45/km, which I think is ok for an old lady :)
How do you prepare for a night shift? How do you recover from one?
We don’t do nights, but have an evening plus on call overnight about once a week. I often have a full morning before this (teaching or admin), and the shift starts at 1 pm, so I tend to do nothing for preparation. However, I ‘aggressively recover’ by going to bed early the next night (or 2 or 3 nights). I do psychologically reset the morning after one of these, especially if I have been called in and had little sleep. I just register that I will be more irritable and negative in my head, so to stop and breathe after any triggers.
How do you avoid getting “hangry” (angry due to hunger) on shift?
Sometimes I take food to work, sometimes not. To be honest “hangry” isn’t a thing for me. I don’t eat that well when at the hospital – no junk food, but nothing as nice as homemade food, so I wish I was more organized to bring stuff.
How do you ensure you are mentally in check?
After doing EM for a long time (23 years), I find different things stressful to what I once did, and in fact find clinical work keeps me mentally in check. The situations are actually fairly predictable, though of course rarely straightforward, and I feel like our training prepares us fairly well for most of what we deal with in ED. However running projects, managing change, and managing people in organizations feels harder for me. In fact I do lots of work at home (related to these challenges) that keeps me mentally in check by trying to be very informed and prepared for whatever I am doing at work each day.
I have found personal life struggles far more difficult to keep mentally in check than work, and dealing with sadness much harder than dealing with stress.
I regularly visit home to my parents’ farm (often with my kids), where the natural environment is a great source of resilience.
What are the biggest challenges you face in maintaining a longstanding career in EM? How do you address these challenges?
Difficult patients, bureaucracy, and inefficiency (especially IT) can frustrate me. Much less so if you do 15 hrs of clinical work a week.
Best advice you have received for maintaining health?
- Self discipline is better than self confidence.
- Eat real food, but not too much.
Who would you love for us to track down to answer these questions?