Resilience, simply, is the ability to bounce back after challenges and grow stronger. It's the capacity to respond to stress in a healthy way so that you can achieve your goals with a minimal mental and physical cost.
Resilience as a Skill: What Does That Really Mean?
There are many factors which contribute to resilience including the capacity for mindfulness, the ability to set appropriate limits in your life, and the skill to constructively engage with (rather than withdrawing from) difficult challenges. Cultivating these specific habits and attitudes is key to promoting resilience for healthcare professionals.
Resilience cannot be achieved without taking care of your physical and mental health in a holistic way. Physical health requires exercise and fresh air, a healthy diet, enough sleep and time for leisure. You should tap into good influences-peers and mentors-and keep the healthy relationships in your life going, especially when you feel like isolating yourself. Celebrate your achievements, be hopeful, intentionally foster your hobbies and interests, and lean on others when you need to.
Resilience is vital in the health professions, as these are high stress and high stakes careers. Physicians who take care of themselves do a better job of taking care of others.
Resilience in a Professional Setting
In order to better understand how to perform well on resilience metrics on CASPer, it is helpful to understand why this is being measured in the first place.
Why are medical schools and other health professions programs so interested in assessing resilience?
Let's look at an example in a professional context for some insight. Below, we'll share an example of resilience with a medical student completing a clinical rotation.
General surgery had been the most challenging rotation that Iona had experienced so far. The days were brutally long with rounds starting at 6am, duties finishing up around 6pm, and every fourth day she was on-call for a 26-hour shift. It was challenging and exciting, but not Iona's passion or career plan.
It was, however, the passion and career plan of many of her peers. This resulted in a sense of fierce competition, where students would often one-up each other. "I haven't had time to eat since last night." "I haven't slept in 2 days!" "I got to first-assist on a lap chole-you shouldn't have left so early last night or maybe you could have too." Iona didn't engage, but rather took these moments to be thankful that she wasn't planning on a career in surgery, and didn't have to be a part of the rivalry.
The worst part of the rotation was, without a doubt, the chief resident, Courtney. Courtney seemed to delight in asking questions above the skill level of the students on her team; when they couldn't answer, she would often scoff "You couldn't even tie up a surgical gown." Iona had been reduced to tears more than once. (The 5th floor stairwell was a safe space to cry-and had good cell phone reception when she needed to call her sister for a quick word of encouragement).
Iona knew that she had to take care of herself, or she would never last the 6-week rotation. On her 26-hour shifts, she would exit the building during the early evening lull, for short walk through the hospital greenspace to clear her head. If she was given an option to sleep ("You don't have to come, but we're doing an appy") instead of observe a surgery during her night shift, she would take it.
Surgical residents didn't break for lunch, so Iona made sure to keep a protein bar in the pocket of her scrubs. She texted her friends from medical school who were doing rotations at the same hospital, and they met up to chat and drink coffee in the hospital cafeteria when they had a spare moment.
When Courtney criticized Iona's knowledge or skills, Iona reminded herself that each day was one day closer to the end of the rotation, and she was hopeful that she would have a nicer chief resident next time. Iona didn't confront Courtney directly, but discussed her concerns with a trusted medical faculty member.
When 6 weeks had passed, Iona breathed a sigh of relief. She had survived! And she felt stronger and more capable than ever.
Iona used a number of important strategies to resiliently cope with her difficult rotation. She made sure to eat, sleep and exercise when she had the chance. She leaned on her sister and on her friends. She chose to respond mindfully rather than reflexively to her peer's rivalry. Importantly, she maintained a sense of hope, looking forward to her next rotation.
Given this example, you can understand why medical schools and other health professions programs find it a necessity to choose applicants who are highly resilient.
So How Does CASPer Evaluate You on this Skill?
CASPer poses common scenarios and reflective questions aimed to determine if you possess the People Skills that you will eventually require to be a successful professional. Start Practicing