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The Stretch Circle

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The opening session at the 2023 ACOG ACM featured Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH, who emphasized the importance of self-care for clinicians and healthcare providers. This includes taking breaks, exercise, practicing mindfulness and meditation, and seeking support from mental health professionals. She also highlighted the need for systemic changes in healthcare, such as reducing administrative burdens and increasing resources for clinician wellness programs.  

As the panel discussion continued, they introduced topics such as developing resilience, moral injury, and being prepared to support and validate our colleagues. We are all at risk of disruptions to our mental health, and we must remain vigilant to ourselves and our peers. After the session, several of us had an opportunity to debrief and share experiences and ideas for improving our environments for providers. 

In this venue, I had the chance to describe “The Stretch Circle.” Drawn from improvisation, “The Stretch Circle” is a physical exercise and an opportunity to develop a shared mental model. When I lead my surgical team through this ritual, we’ll first circle up, typically an arm’s length from one another, and then each of us will conduct a stretch and share our personal objectives for the upcoming procedure. These goals range from focusing on suturing techniques to achieving efficiency and better patient care. Participants mirror each other and focus on each other’s body language. It is a great way to warm up those muscles beforehand and be cognizant of your own physicality prior to entering the operating room so that we can do the best things for patients. One learns to multitask by describing what they hope to get from the surgical case and what you might have learned from the previous situation.  

After we finish the circle, we’ll take a moment to center ourselves and mentally prepare for the task ahead. We’ll take deep breaths and visualize the successful outcome of the surgery. This helps to reduce any anxiety or stress that we might be feeling and allows us to enter the operating room with a clear and focused mindset. 

The benefits of the circle go beyond just physical preparation. It’s a way for our team to come together, bond, and set a positive tone for the day. By sharing our objectives and reflecting on our previous cases, we’re able to learn from each other and continuously improve our skills. 

As a surgeon, I believe the patient’s well-being should always be the top priority. By incorporating rituals like the Stretch Circle into our pre-surgery routine, we can ensure that we provide our patients with the best possible physical care. It’s a small but meaningful way to show that we’re committed to their health and our personal growth as medical professionals. 

Overall, the ACOG ACSM 2023 conference provided a platform for healthcare professionals to come together and address the challenges facing clinicians. By collaborating and supporting each other, clinicians can work towards providing better care for their patients while also prioritizing their well-being. 

Dr. Milad has no conflicts of interest to report.

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