As the President and CEO of a health sciences university, I am committed to training a diverse group of highly competent and compassionate health professionals. What comes with this awesome and noble mission is an awareness of the need to properly train our students to be great practitioners but also to infuse into them the best practices of personally living a healthy lifestyle. Work-life balance is key, but sometimes challenged most directly in the demanding profession of the health care provider.
Regardless of the discipline, there is rigorous training, an overwhelming volume of content to learn, and an expected commitment to life-long learners. It has sometimes been a "badge of honor" to see how well you can endure as you progress in your training in the health professions. Typically, only the strong, the dedicated, the well-organized and determined survive...why? Many times because they are required to make the ultimate sacrifice, sometimes afraid, most times anxious, and a considerable amount of the time, sleep deprived. We know this to be true and it causes me to sound the alarm to remind us of the awesome responsibility we have as educators to ensure that we not only properly train great practitioners but also infuse them with a greater awareness of the negative implications of a sustained existence of stress, worry, and sleep deprivation.
"It has sometimes been a 'badge of honor' to see how well you can endure as you progress in your training in the health professions. Typically, only the strong, the dedicated, the well-organized and determined survive...why?"
Des Moines University was selected to participate in Arianna Huffington's launch of her Sleep Revolution tour as she has revealed in her newly published book a greater awareness of the sleep crisis and the harm that may be done when one is sleep deprived.
One might ask why a health sciences university would get on board with the Sleep Revolution and here are the reasons why I think this is a really big deal.
1. Graduate and Professional Schools are notorious for high demand and high stakes expectations. The rigors are like no other environment given the volume of material to learn and the constant challenge to perform and be evaluated.
2. Students in health professions training programs are typically anxious and fearful of the demands placed on them and sometimes carry considerable expectations from family and friends to achieve.
3. Many health professions schools convey a "make or break" culture which causes many students to fear failure and crumble under the pressure because they wait too long to ask for help.
4. With the many demands on their schedules, health professions students are most likely making the sacrifice by stealing precious time from sleep to get more time preparing for classes and exams.
5. Stress-filled and high-demand lifestyles typically equate with difficulty "shutting down" for rest, even if there is the time and desire to sleep.
6. Post-graduate training programs in the health professions are known to be demanding with many trainees working long hours with little opportunity for sleep. Whereas there are duty hour requirements now in place for Graduate Medical Education (GME), there still remains an environment that may have many individuals providing care at a time that they may not have had adequate rest. Does that compromise the quality of care? Perhaps.
"Many health professions schools convey a "make or break" culture which causes many students to fear failure and crumble under the pressure because they wait too long to ask for help."
So, it is clear that there is good reason for THIS Health Sciences University, Des Moines University, to proudly carry the banner of the #SleepRevolution. This initiative falls in line with our focus on preparing our students to live healthy lives just as we hope that they become competent and compassionate health care providers. Reducing stress and making time for proper rest and rejuvenation are essential ingredients to living a productive life.
The challenge is helping others to see the value of sleep and adhering to this as a healthy lifestyle choice just as we routinely talk of healthy diets and fitness being a part of a healthy lifestyle. Isn't it time that sleep became just what the doctor ordered?
This post is part of our series on sleep culture on college campuses. To join the conversation and share your own story, please email our Director of College Outreach Abby Williams directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can find out here if the #SleepRevolution College Tour will be visiting your campus, and learn how you can get involved. If your college is not one of the colleges already on our tour and you want it to be, please get in touch with Abby.