A few years ago, a study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine found that physicians are twice as likely as other workers to be unhappy with their work-life balance. Since then, nothing in the healthcare industry has changed to make achieving that balance any easier, and many may concede it has gotten worse. The 2019 Medscape study on Physician Burnout found that 44% of doctors were experiencing burnout, and 15% were clinically depressed. Clearly, with the effort required to become a physician, ending up burned out and depressed is not an ideal scenario.
Regardless of your chosen occupation, everyone deserves to achieve the work-life balance that they have always wanted. Let’s look at a few things you can do immediately to find that perfect work-life balance.
- Audit Your Time. I know, your first thought is that you don’t have the time to practice medicine, how can I find the time to track my hours. The answer is simple. If you don’t have a clear understanding of where your time is going, how can you make the necessary changes to find balance? Fortunately, there are very handy time tracking apps that you can put on your phone. With very little effort, you can set up the multitude of tasks you perform throughout the day, and when you get to work the next day, simply clock into and out of those tasks. At the end of the week, you will have a very clear picture of where your time is going. Time tracking apps like Atracker or TMetric offer basic versions for iOS and Android for free, or more robust versions for a nominal fee. Once you determine where your time is being wasted or how much time is spent on overly labor-intensive duties, you can work on coming up with a solution.
- Make Your Own Wellness an Important Priority. You spend your day healing others, but when it comes down to it, how much time are you spending on healing yourself? You aren’t a machine and should refrain from treating yourself like one. Start small and force yourself to leave work at a reasonable hour at least once a week. Or, try spending a lunch hour several days a week at the gym. Let’s face it, the work will be there when you get back, so there is no reason to forgo your own mental and physical health trying to do the impossible.
- Don’t Obsess Over Things You Can’t Control. There is a lot of wisdom in the “Serenity Prayer” that is used in 12-step recovery programs, among other things. As a physician, you have a lot of things that are in your control, but also much that is not. Instead of stressing about each new regulation that is passed down from CMS or the latest insurance claim that was denied, have the serenity to accept what you can and cannot control. Internalizing your frustrations over external demands is a sure way to stoke the burnout fire. Try channeling those frustrations into an evening run or visit the gym.
- Create a Meaningful Life Outside of Your Work. As difficult as it may seem at times, the more life you cultivate outside of work, the more reasons you will have to force yourself to leave at a reasonable time or take a vacation day or two. Whether it is family, friends, or a hobby, having other priorities in your life besides work, makes it easier to force a balance between them.
- Advocate for Yourself. Frequently, physicians allow themselves to be sucked into commitments or responsibilities that are unreasonable for anyone who is trying to achieve work-life balance. Sometimes you have to stick up for yourself and demand that time off for vacation, or even just the opportunity to take a break or a lunch at a reasonable time. If electronic records charting is keeping you in the office until 9 at night, advocate for a medical scribe to alleviate some of that burden. Somethings are worth the fight, and if it is impeding your ability to create balance in your life, fight for the change you need.
You have worked extremely hard to become a physician, and you deserve to have a life outside of practicing medicine. It may not seem easy to achieve, but it is important for you as a person and your longer-term career to begin taking steps toward achieving balance in your life.
If you need to make a change in order to achieve greater work-life balance, contact the experienced recruitment professionals at Jackson Physician Search, and let us help you find the opportunity needed to get there.
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