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 Self-Care Plans: What and Why

​​Self-Care and Wellness Curriculum

A. What is a curriculum?

Curriculum has many definitions, reflecting the variety of learning environments, types of learners and the competency focus areas (knowledge, skills, attitudes/values). We typically think of a curriculum as something that is set up by others and provided to us. From this perspective, our task is to learn the material, not consider what the material should be and why we need to engage it.

A wellness curriculum aligns well with the concept of being a life-long learner. It is a life-long activity we modify as we move through our lives. Curriculum for a life-long learner is more global and personal than our typical view of curriculum.  It engages the attitudes, values and skills components of competency. It requires us to engage and consider what should be included and how we do it. Lifelong learner curriculums

"…support learners in "owning" their learning, as well as discovering & demonstrating the knowledge & skills they've gained from all areas of life." (Integrative Knowledge Collaborative)

B. What is a self-care plan?

RWBC's definition is

"A self-care plan is a thoughtfully constructed and intentionally engaged guide (wellness curriculum) to promote our health and wellbeing." A self-care plan takes the concept of being a life-long learner and engages the person in building a curriculum of knowledge, skills and attitudes to support their wellbeing.

A Self-Care Plan has three prerequisites:

  • Evidence based with empirically supported practices to foster our physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing.
  • Practice based with observable self-care activities (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time bound) for which we can track performance and outcomes.
  • Culture based with a work and learning environment in which the organization and the employees appreciate how our wellbeing supports the mission of the organization, the quality of our care for others, our morale and engagement."

C. Evidence Base for Self-Care Plans

The evidence for physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing practices is readily available. You will find it in many places in our health care system (Marshfield Clinic Health System Worksite Wellness Program, Grand Rounds, Mediasite presentations, residency program lectures, The Pulse, RWBC emails such as the weekly Piece of My Mind, the Resident Annual Retreat).

Here are a few links to data on health assessments and self-care practices:

D. Practice Base for Self-Care Plans

Having the knowledge for what creates good self-care is the first step. However it's not enough. We encounter this frequently in caring for patients. Many patients listen to us educate them on their conditions, indicate they understand the things they need to do and then they don't do it. So it is with adherence to our own self-care. Knowing the information is only the first step.


The second step is to develop your specific self-care plan which includes:

  • each key component of wellness (physical, emotional, social, spiritual)
  • observable self-care activities (OSCAs) for each component (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound)
  • a monitoring routine for your observable self-care activities (OSCAs)

Here is a detailed guide for building your self-care plan

Here is an example of a self-care plan and how it was built

The third step is implementation of your self-care plan. It involves four parts.

1. Pick adherence attitudes, such as:

            I am too busy AND I can make the time to do this.

            I don't have the time to do this AND I'll start now.

            I am so busy And that's why I need to start this now.

            My self-care is important to me AND to my patients.

            Other residents do this AND I can too.

            I'm doing it now AND I will keep doing it.


2. Share your plan with others. Invite them to ask you how you are doing with your observable self-care activities. See the RWBC topic page on Neighborhood Watch for suggestions on this https://www.marshfieldclinic.org/education/residents-and-fellows/well-being-committee/well-being-topics/quality-of-life/neighborhood-watch

3. Track your OSCAs. Set up a method to track your OSCAs, such as calendars, a diary, your phone's built in health monitoring, or apps.

4. Celebrate your successes and resolve the obstacles. Be kind to yourself when you don't adhere perfectly to your self-care plan. . Instead of having negative thoughts and berating yourself ("I can't do this."  "If I had my act together I could make this work."), give yourself credit for being honest with yourself to notice that you haven't achieved your goals ("I don't need to be perfect with this. I'm trying and that counts. Now I can figure out what to do to make this work better.")


E. Culture Base for Self-Care plans

A corporate culture that values engagement in self-care plans is critical to sustaining adherence to our self-care plans. Colleagues, managers and administrators who ask us how we are doing, support our involvement in our self-care activities and share their own successes with improved health and wellbeing all promote adherence. Each of us is part of our corporate culture and we have influence over it. One by one, if we choose to ask each other about our self-care and share what works for us, we help our corporate culture evolve. Asking and sharing have impact!

F. Starting

You are very busy today, maybe even stressed today AND that is even more reason to start your plan today. Go through the steps for building your plan in section D above. Share your plan, no matter how well developed, with 2 other people you interact with daily AND start. Don't be perfect, just start. Email RWBC and let us know when you started (email link to mjs). You can do this. You deserve to do this. Your patients need you to do this. We need you to do this. AND we're cheering you on!