Doctor and business owner Dr Johanna Ward on Covid-19, the NHS and doctor health
Mum, business owner, cosmetic doctor, and GP - Covid is the last thing I needed
September 1, 2020

Covid-19 was the last thing she needed…

Mum, business owner, cosmetic doctor, and GP. Dr Johanna Ward is a busy woman. The last thing she needed was Covid-19.

Based in Kent, UK, Dr Johanna quit her job in the NHS and sold her car to set up her own business. A decade on, she’s now an author, mum of three and the owner of a skincare and nutritional range.

Dr Johanna is passionate about health and has an unconventional medical career. Throughout her career, she’s made dramatic changes to ensure she’s got the balance in life she wants. She even sold her first business, a successful skin and laser clinic, to recalibrate and spend more time with family.

In this podcast {LINK} with fellow doctor and entrepreneur Dr Sam Hazledine, Dr Johanna talks about life in the NHS, what it’s like starting a medical business and her recent battle with Covid-19.

Covid-19 on the frontline

Dr Johanna became unwell with Covid-19 in March 2020, prior to the UK’s lockdown measures. She still works with patients and, like many healthcare professionals, this could be how she caught the illness.

“I spent 17 days in isolation, very breathless, very high fever, feeling incredibly unwell and very anxious and worried about whether I would survive or not, if I'm honest.”

It’s not the first time Dr Johanna has been seriously ill after working on the frontline.  

“I contracted tuberculosis when I was a young medic,” she explains, “so I have a slight co-morbidity or kind of pre-disposition.”

“One of the things we have to remember as medics is that this happens sometimes, you know, it's now my second disease that I've experienced in the line of duty. […] In the UK, lots of healthcare professionals have contracted Covid. In fact, we've had a bit of a disastrous time with coping.”

The pandemic has re-emphasized how much doctors and medical professionals sacrifice to serve their communities.

“We take risks on a personal level. We sacrifice an awful lot of family life and personal time, both in the pursuit and study of medicine and then the practice of. And these sometimes aren't things you consider when you're an 18, 19, 20-year-old thinking about going into med school.”

The burnout problem

Burnout is common among doctors and Dr Johanna says the modern 24/7 switched-on lifestyle isn’t helping.

“We are all juggling an awful lot of things. We seem to have more things to do in less time these days.

“We have the wonders of technology, but with that comes some of the negatives too, where it just seems like we're cramming so much into life that sometimes we're forgetting to live. And I think the burnout issue is a big problem. I always call stress ‘the great separator’. It affects your health, your mental health, your physical health.”

She highlights that the stripping away of funding from NHS England means resources are becoming more scare and morale is lowering all the time. Add to this the pressure of a pandemic, where NHS workers are at the frontline and often spend time away from their families to keep them safe.

“Burnout's a big problem and we need more investment. We need more support. Certainly in England, we need more doctors and nurses and health care workers because we're having a decline in numbers, which is worrying. But we'll never be able to recruit great people if morale is low and if people don't feel that the sacrifice you make is worth it.”

As doctors, we should practice what we preach

Dr Johanna believes that being an ambassador for health and wellness, and leading the way by example, is one way doctors can empower themselves and help fix the system.

“[The system is] broken, but it can be fixed, definitely. I always talk to my patients about stress management. I think just simple things like incorporating some meditation into your life is so effective, things like palates and yoga. When I started practicing them, they opened me up to a new way of managing my own stress. Then things like exercise is a wonderful therapy.

“So, the very things we’re telling our patients to do, to make themselves feel better, to bring down their risk of chronic disease: to eat great nourishing foods, to look after yourself, to manage your stress, to get yourself out regularly for exercise… Sometimes, they’re the things that when we’re busy doctors, we don’t find the time to do.

“I think if you create and find the time to do these things and live a healthy fulfilled life yourself, it all has a domino effect. You find yourself reengaging with your practice again, and loving your profession again, because you realize a new way you can help people.”

Listen to Dr Johanna’s podcast with Dr Sam Hazledine about Covid-19, burnout, building businesses and setting boundaries here.

Are you a doctor with a story to share? We’d love to hear from you, contact us at info@medworld.com.

Article by
Dr Johanna Ward

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