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Work-life balance: Can A Doctor Have It?

In today’s busy times, can a doctor really achieve work-life balance? This may seem impossible when considering their overwhelming workload: From patient contact, to administrative duties, to teaching and charting, to meetings and community outreach. Plus, with mobile technology, work and home life can very often become blurred. But even with all this in the mix, work-life balance is not necessarily out of reach. It really comes to down to healthy choices that carefully balance sleep, good nutrition, emotional growth and time with friends and family. Together these ensure that you are not just looking after patients, but after yourself as well. So, here are some key areas that can help you, the doctor, to achieve that elusive work-life balance.

Schedule in personal time

Schedule in personal time as if you were scheduling in a patient. In this way, you are the patient. And this self-prescribed medicine – is time. You may use this time to have lunch with your partner, pick up the kids from school or take time to read the paper. The point is that it’s your time and not your patient or practice’s. Now remember, just as you would expect your patient to finish the medication course as directed, you need to commit to your personal time and see this through too.

Delegate!

You time is not only valuable, but it is limited as well. This means that it is crucial that you outsource wherever possible. This may mean by delegating help at the office with an assistant as well as help at home with childcare and support around the house. It is a physical impossibility to be everywhere all at once, so by ensuring you have people to lighten your load, your headspace will benefit as well.

Move into Telemedicine

If COVID has helped in any way, it is that it has very quickly transitioned medical practices online with Zoom or Skype consultations. While this time is still dedicated to patients, it helps if you can work from home or in more convenient locations. This is because the time saved on the commute has a carry-over effect allowing you to spend time with family, friends or just be in a familiar space to catch up on at home.

Presence and mindfulness

While it may be easier said than done, when you are at home, try not to think of patients. Likewise when you are at work, try not to think about home. This kind of mental discipline can go a long way in ensuring you don’t miss out on something important because your mind is elsewhere. If this is a challenge, consider learning meditation or other mindfulness strategies to assist you in staying in the present.

Remember your contribution

If you are working and rushing around as much are you are, it is very easy to forget just how much you are contributing to your community and individual’s lives. So, just remember to take a moment to reflect on why you have chosen such a demanding profession in the first place. This kind of re-centering can help expand your mental space when things feel overwhelming and help prevent burn-out.

Debrief

You work in challenging environments where people are suffering. So, it is imperative to make sure you debrief with a colleague or therapist on an ongoing basis. This is not necessarily for professional guidance, but rather for personal and emotional support. Whether you like it or not, while you may be on autopilot during work hours, you are human at the end of the day. Humans have feelings and these need to go somewhere. So, make sure you are putting them in a place that is reflective with an empathetic listener. This will allow you to consolidate and move on at the end of a stressful day.

The bottom line

A doctor can achieve work-life balance, but it takes work. With these tips you can drastically reduce your stress levels and achieve that elusive thing called “work-life balance”. While this may seem like an impossible task for a doctor, it really can be done. It all comes down to creating spaces in your mind where your mental health and personal space is as much of a priority as your patient’s health. The bottom line is that if you are burnt out, you cannot effectively help your patients. But with these small adjustments, you will really experience profound shifts in both your energy levels and emotional capacity.

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