Breaking news! This statement has just been added to the Physician's Oath (a modern equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath) which was adopted by the World Medical Association in 1948. But until now there was no mention of self care in the Physician's Oath.
A New Zealand doctor, Sam Hazledine, championed the cause to change this. Last year he presented a petition from thousands of Australasian doctors for it to be included. He noted, "the problem if we've said patient care comes first, it's almost like - and therefore I don't matter," and said that this was reflected in surveys showing that the number of doctors who were struggling with stress and burn-out was alarming and increasing. Research had also shown that these factors led to emotional disconnection from patients - "so despite 'first do no harm' being the core principle of our profession, the way we're being as doctors is actually causing us to harm our patients," he said.
And of course, there are many people in many different roles who care for others and also suffer the same imbalance - stress, burn-out, with harm to themselves and to the people they care for.
You do know that it's important to care for yourself well, don't you?
It's not just if you are wanting to care well for others - those people you love, companion animals, people you work with and serve, people you don't know but you know that they are in need, the living things in the world around you - there's no end to the call we might feel from others. But being able to meet the needs of others is not the biggest reason to care for ourselves.
You deserve good care because you are a human being.
That's enough. If you disagree, please comment and explain - genuinely - it's important to understand what stops us from kind self-care.
And here's a salutary image, a reminder of what it's like to provide shelter but get worn out - to suffer from a lack of protection, a lack of care - the barely surviving macrocarpa (Monterey cyprus) trees of Slope Point in the south of the South Island, where they are very exposed to extreme winds.
These macrocarpa could have been handsome trees. In their native Monterey they tend to be wind-battered and picturesque, but in New Zealand they generally thrive - growing tall and wide, with large strong branches, producing a lovely golden timber. And this is despite the fact that they have often been planted to provide shelter - so they have not been coddled. But they have had good enough conditions to do well.
Without good enough care we can be like these trees - suffering from distortions in how we are (maybe embittered, brittle, feeling stunted and restricted in how we are getting on...)
Good enough care is what we all need. Whatever we have suffered and lacked, we can as adults respond to ourselves with care and concern - and in doing so, show others how to treat us too! And fortunately, we are not limited by woody lignins and all the other compounds that both strengthen the tree and restrict its options. These ones can't unbend. But we can be flexible.
We can make changes in the direction of our self-care any time we choose. Where might you start?