5 Steps Towards a Better Work Life for Physicians

As a physician, you’ve learned to take care of everyone around you but what are you doing to ensure a work life balance that keeps you passionate about your career for decades to come? This is a real concern. Upwards of 40% of American physicians experience burn out. So what’s a doc to do with this poor prognosis? Read on…

1. Schedule time with friends and/or family (just like you’d advise your patients)

You spend the majority of your waking hours at your clinic, office or hospital – making patients’ lives better. While this is an honorable calling, remember the commitment you have to your friends and family. As much as possible, leave your clinical duties at the practice. However, if you’ve had a rough day or find a work issue remains on your mind, let them in on it rather than appearing distant or preoccupied. As outsiders, they may be able to provide valuable insight. Taking quality time to maintain a healthy relationship with friends and family allows you to recharge so that you can continue the work of caring for your patients. 

2. Live within your means 

Whether you make a modest or sizeable income, learn to live within your means. As a rule of thumb, you should spend no more than 3X your annual income on all your housing needs (including property taxes) and no more than a third of your annual income on your car (that includes insurance). The majority of us overspend on essentials, rather than luxury items, which creates a cycle of debt and worry. Young physicians tend to get overexcited about their first large paycheck and decide that their hard work should translate into tangible and purchasable benefits. Remember that no debt – including medical school loans – is good debt. Set up a budget to save yourself from working nonstop in order to keep up with Dr. Jones. 

3. Delegate, delegate, delegate 

Physicians often feel that they must work tirelessly, do everything themselves and ensure that results are perfect every time. This is a classic set up for burnout syndrome. The truth is that medicine is a team sport and its goal is health, not perfection. Every effective leader must eventually learn to delegate work in order to be successful. Ensure you have a reliable software platform like Updox that furthers your business, top-notch staff to support you and collegial colleagues and leadership who will combat professional burnout. Remember: you can do anything, you just can’t do everything! 

4. Mentor a budding physician

Remember being a young and enthusiastic medical student who thought they could heal the world? It might seem like a lifetime ago, but remember this: there are budding physicians out there who are still fully enraptured by the promise of medicine. Encourage them! Have a pre-med student shadow you, tutor first- or second-year medical students during clinical skills or field questions from medical students or residents who have no exposure to your chosen path, whether it is boutique or army medicine. No matter what you choose, you are fueling the passion of the next generation of physicians. Share with them the importance of life work balance to minimize their future burnout

5. Take a vacation, already

Physicians are bred to work till they drop, then keep on working. While this used to be a badge of honor, there is quite a lot of data showing that overtired physicians make more medical errors, have lower patient satisfaction and increase their risk of drug abuse and suicide. Taking a vacation from clinical duties allows you to explore your non-medical passions and spend valuable time with family. It also allows scheduled time to recharge and renew your passion for medicine. Whether you choose a staycation or R&R halfway across the world, make a commitment to a true vacation. Don’t answer patient calls, work on a publication or complete administrative duties. Trust that your colleagues will thrive for a time without you and commit to doing the same for them when their vacation time comes! 

Medicine is truly a calling. Remember to continually replenish your reserves so you can practice – and live – fully throughout your career. 

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