We are professional healers. We take care of people’s problems all day, every day. It is an honor and a privilege. However, our profession of caring takes its toll on us. It’s not easy. Compassion fatigue and physician burnout are both terms with which you are probably exquisitely familiar.
At one time or another, we can become tired, angry, or jaded physicians with no time for anything and miss out on the things that make life—and us—fun.
If people answer honestly about burnout, most would probably say, “Been there, done that.”
Burnout rates vary by specialty, per AMA, and continue to increase.
The big question we keep asking is: How do we balance our intense work while maintaining our sanity and happiness?
Given the intensity of our work and hectic schedules, how can we work and live with wellness in mind?
Unlike in residency, when our voices can go quiet and work-life balance is a joke, things do change for the better afterward, as you have more control over your time and choices.
Some reflections on things physicians need to know about work-life wellness (in no specific order):
- Make your wellness a priority
Make time for self-care of your whole self: mind, body, heart, soul. As a committee member on Physician Wellness Program of the Travis County Medical Society (TCMS), I cannot stress enough that work-life balance and wellness need to be priorities.
Start with you, and make yourself a priority. Recognize your human emotions and experiences. Reach out.
- Don’t forget who you are as an individual
Yes, you’re a physician, but that shouldn’t be the only thing that defines you. Don’t forget that. Your degree is only one part, so don’t let it bind you.
Read more on the truths and challenges of being a doctor mom.
- Grant yourself space and time to really live
It took a health scare for me to realize that I needed to slow down and make the most of my life. Things can be unpredictable, no matter how detailed our plans for the future. Instead, make the moment yours, and start living your best life.
- Work with wellness in mind
For decades, we’ve unwaveringly dedicated our focus and energy to become physicians. We’ve been programmed to think that working all the time makes us better doctors. So, when we get tired, we just work harder.
But why? Working non-stop doesn’t make us “better;” it just makes us grumpy and tired. It shows up in how we show up to work, our patient encounters, and our personal lives.
So, try to step back a little and work with wellness in mind. Feeling overwhelmed, tired, or snarky are signs you need to work less.
If you feel bored, try a change of pace or use your medical degree in a different way. Try non-clinical work, advocacy, research projects, giving lectures, mentorship, and/or entrepreneurial endeavors.
Most importantly, work smarter, not just harder. Time really is the most precious commodity, and we can never get it back.
- Have a life outside your medical career
Spend time cultivating relationships with family, friends, SOs. Resume hobbies. Start a side gig that can be related or unrelated to clinical medicine. Learn a new skill. Travel. Get outside your bubble.
- Be your own advocate
Whether it be for sick days, maternity leave, time for pumping breaks at work, or even a vacation, know your rights and stand up for yourself. Don’t let anyone bully you or guilt you into commitments or responsibilities with which you are not comfortable.
- Accept that you are not perfect
Recognize you won’t and don’t know everything. Every day and every patient is a learning experience. Expecting perfection is an unrealistic goal. You are human. And that is more than OK.
Read more on letting go of perfection.
- Know your worth
Each person on the healthcare team is important—physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, medical assistants, techs, nonclinical staff, etc—and has a specific role in patient care. Mutual respect, teamwork, transparency in roles, and practicing within the scope of each person’s training is vital for patient safety, reduction of healthcare costs, and quality care.
Some companies (be it hospitals or clinics) may try to convince you that your medical degree and expertise do not matter by offering you very low compensation. Many physicians worry that if they don’t accept the offer, they will be out of a job or that it will go to someone else, like a midlevel provider.
However, the years of training and experience required to be a medical doctor are vastly different than the training to be a different healthcare provider and vice versa. As with any job, the compensation should match the level of expertise and training.
If you are unsure what is appropriate compensation, reach out and speak to other physicians. Expand your network to see what jobs—clinical and nonclinical—are available. Please recognize that you can and will find the right job for you and that there are many options.
Please do not accept devaluation of physician time and expertise.
Bottom line: if you don’t accept your worth, why would anyone else?
- Be your own friend instead of your harshest critic
Inwardly radiate the love that you so generously give to others. You are doing a lot, and you are doing it well, even if it may not always seem that way.
Read more on making space for self compassion.
- Please remember that you are not alone
Find a support system. Reach out to other physicians. We’ve been where you are as a medical student, resident, and as a fresh attending. We know that it is exciting but that this medical experience is demanding and never-ending.
Please do not let it consume you. Please do not stop caring. You’ve worked too hard and sacrificed too much to just accept whatever anyone gives you.
Even if it may not seem like it, your choices do affect the lives of current and future physicians. We are in this together. Through our collective voices, we can advocate for positive changes for you, for us, and for future generations of physicians.
A physician on your side, your colleague in medicine, and friend in life.
Read the full article: https://themindfulmdmom.com/physician-work-life-balance/