5 Self-Care Strategies for PA Educators

The concept of self-care has gotten a lot of attention lately, given the new requirement added to the ARC accreditation standards. Although the standard speaks to teaching it to our students, I believe it is also a call for us to revisit it for ourselves. As clinicians, how many times did we decide to go into work even though we were sick because we feel obligated to show up for our patients, not to mention the burden to reschedule all of them? Likewise, teachers don’t say home either when they need to because they worry their student’s learning will suffer. Although self-care is essential for every profession, those in caregiving positions like teachers and health care providers have a higher burnout rate. This fact is because our work's very nature requires us to focus all our energy on others and put ourselves last. With many PA educators also still working clinically, this is all the more reason why it is so vital for us to take steps to ensure we have self-care habits and practices in place as part of our daily routine.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, self-care is any action you use to improve your health and well-being. There are six elements to self-care: physical, psychological, spiritual, social, and professional. You don’t have to incorporate all of them, just find the ones that work for you.

5 Self-Care Habits

Set healthy boundaries

 Said another way, it is the power of No.  If you don’t protect your time, no one else will. Setting boundaries is about your ability to say no when that student knocks on your door even though you have a do not disturb sign up. It’s saying no when a colleague wants to sit and chat, but you are in the middle of working on your lecture.

Other common places where establishing boundaries are important are around students' access to you after hours. In today’s 24/7 digital world access, it is a good idea to think about placing some limits around when you will and won’t respond to student e-mails. Technically, most workdays are over at 5 or 6 PM, meaning you are not required to answer student e-mails that come in after that time. But we tend to worry about our students and feel compelled to answer their questions or concerns as soon as they pop up in our e-mail. But just because our students may be on their devices at all hours of the night, it doesn’t mean we have to respond. I will admit it took me quite a long time to put a statement in each of my syllabi that I would not respond to e-mails after 6 PM or before 8 AM. I worried students would be angry or offended. But when I explained why, which was because that was my time to be with my family, I found they understood. As teachers, we are also role models. If we tell them we are not available after 6 PM and why and stick to it, we role model for them healthy boundaries.

Eat well and stay hydrated

I know you know how to do this, but it’s whether you do it – consistently. Make smart choices and take the time to eat. I know so many of us sit at our desks and eat. You can take 15-20 minutes, get out of your office, and perhaps sit outside, and eat something healthy.

We all know how important it is to stay hydrated. The best choice is water, somewhere between 4-8 cups of it!  I know, how boring. As someone who did not drink much water, I have learned to create a habit to help me drink a minimum of 24 ounces a day. I purchased a 24-ounce water bottle I really liked, and each morning I fill it up and put it on my desk next to me. My goal is to drink two of them by the end of the day.

Get enough sleep

The single most significant factor to high performance, either physically or mentally, is getting enough sleep. I tell the students this on the first day of the program. Sleep is critical. This is true for us as well. Research has found that adults and college students need somewhere between 7-9 hours a night for optimal performance and energy for the next day. Sleep hygiene also factors into this. This means going to bed and getting up around the same time consistently every day.


We have all heard the saying, “Sitting is the next smoking.”  Especially during this time of COVID and teaching from home, we have to get out of our chairs and move our bodies. It doesn’t have to be formal exercise, just some form of movement for about 20-30 minutes each day. It could simply be getting out for a walk each day, doing yoga, or something you enjoy that involves moving your body. Since I work these days exclusively sitting in front of my computer, I use an echo dot and set a 50-minute timer.  When she tells me my time is up, I get up out of my chair. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t finished what I am working on. I will come back to it when I return. I take at least a 10-minute break every hour.

Stress management = scheduling in time for you!

Teaching is stressful. The World Health Organization states that 80% of health problems today are stress-related. So the importance of self-care is paramount. One of the most critical components of stress management is making sure you take time for yourself. And given how crazy busy everyone is, yes, it means scheduling it in on your calendar. And not only scheduling it – but taking that time. We have all done it. When something unexpected comes up, or something takes us longer than we thought, the first time we cut into is our time. The first thing to come off our schedule is something we planned for ourselves. When this dynamic happens, again and again, stress builds. One of the most common signs of mounting stress levels is when you feel like there isn’t enough time to get your work done or do the important things in your life.  Feelings like these are what put us on the road to chronic high stress, potential health consequences as well as burnout.

Remember the first self-care habit we mentioned, healthy boundaries, and the power of no. Making sure you honor and keep those times blocked for you is crucial to your well-being. Self-care will look different for each of us – so find what works for you, schedule it, and use the power of no to protect that time.

We all know how easy it is to let work usurp the things we schedule for ourselves, but here is the thing. If we ever hope to teach our students the importance of self-care, so they can be at their best for their patients, be mentally and physically alert, then who we are and how we are as teachers – including what we do for self-care will speak louder than anything we can say to them.


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Nelsen, J., & Gfroerer, K. (n.d.). Self care for teachers. Positive Discipline. Retrieved from https://www.positivediscipline.com/articles/self-care-teachers

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