Category Archives: Work life balance for doctors

Work Life Balance

I have referred to Medicine being like a monster that eats into your life and the following blog post compares working as a physician as being like having a gorilla in your life! The advice this author gives is congruent with what I’ve written about making your out of work committments as important as those at work: saying no more often to extra work and yes more to things you do which nurture your own health and well-being. Click the link below to read the article.

Work Life Balance for Doctors means saying No with power and grace

www.thehappymd.com3/20/12

Work life balance for doctors means being able to say no to defend your larger life from the 800 pound gorilla that is your career.

Life for doctors – don’t neglect the rest…

If you’ve been through years of medical training, passed your exams and become a doctor, ask yourself whether you are a doctor for life and discover for yourself how much of you is now wrapped up in your identity as a doctor?
It’s important to remember that you are more than your profession, that you are more than your training and you deserve to have a life both in and out of Medicine.

Yet so many doctors forget this and as a result they neglect the important parts of themselves that existed before they became doctors and will be there when they have retired from Medicine.

If this applies to you too then consider this: your life as a doctor is more than your medical practice. You are allowed to have other interests apart from medicine and to have the time to spend with friends, family and community too.

What’s stopping you having your life as a doctor combined with a life away from that identity?
Perhaps there are overwhelming pressures on you to pass examinations, to do more research and to fulfill the expectations of your seniors. Maybe you put so much pressure onto your juniors in their pursuit of medical excellence and success that they daren’t question you nor realise that a doctor needs balance in his or her life.

Yet when you do create space for something away from your medical work you will find that you become more able to deal with the stresses of your day to day working life as a doctor.

Remind yourself that you became a doctor to diagnose and treat sick people, but you didn’t necessarily agree to give up every other aspect of your life. Recall what used to make your heart sing before you became overwhelmed with the doctor’s life. You may find that just remembering what it was that gave you an internal buzz that you realise you would love to re-visit that hobby or activity once more.

Don’t only think it, make the decision now, today, that something has to change and do one thing differently that will be the first step to changing your life to include things away from Medicine for a regular time set side each week just for you. The step you take could be simple and might be for example to book a ticket to go to a concert, see a film, join a class, bang a drum or go for a walk in the park.

Coaching helps. More information HERE too.

Does Coaching Work For Doctors?

Does coaching work for doctors?Coaching can enable doctors to  find their own way forward to a more balanced and happier life. This is what coaching can do for you if you are a doctor who is wondering about coaching and feeling hesitant about hiring a coach because you don’t really understand how a coach might be useful:

A coach can:

  • Motivate you to move forward and do what you want to do by encouraging you to take the first step and then some more, especially for those things you have been procrastinating about for some time.
  • Listen to your concerns about possible courses of action  and then by asking you challenging questions make you think afresh about what’s happening in your life and make the decision that’s best for you at this time.
  • Challenge your beliefs about the way things are and the ways they could be, by helping you question long-held ideas which no longer serve you.
  • Be on your side, supporting you in whatever course of action you decide to take  without an agenda of their own. For example,  colleagues might be shocked to hear you say you might leave the medical profession, or would like to spend more time with your friends and family, whereas the coach will help you  consider alternatives you might not have thought about before and then motivate you to do what you need to do.
  • Be in contact with you on a regular basis either on the telephone, email or Skype thus avoiding lengthy journeys for face to face meetings.
  • Enable you to clarify your goals so that you can make decisions and take action  in relation to challenges old or new, so that you make a difference to your life.
  • Teach you skills you can use if you are faced with similar challenges in the future. For instance you could  learn ways to communicate more effectively and  use what you learn when faced with a similar situation in the future.

Thus coaching can be useful for doctors like you. But only you can take that first step of making contact, discussing what you hope to achieve and then making a commitment to the process.

When you take that first step, which means you may feel you are stepping out of your comfort zone. However  when you do this you are embarking on your personal journey and  you will quickly find your very own prescription  for change.

Find out more about Coaching here.

What can you do?

What to do to have a more balanced life as a doctor:

1. Stop taking physical documents, patient’s files and journals with you in order to catch up during the evening or weekend. Instead just leave the files, the work diary or the briefcase in your office at work. Leasve it there and also so something to tell yourself you are leaving it there until tomorrow and you will deal with it then. This could be saying something to yourself as you wash your hands: ‘I’m leaving all that stuff here until tomorrow.’

2. Stop taking thoughts with you so that you no longer find it difficult to ‘switch off’ and are able to  stop thinking about a particular patient and whether or not you might have missed something or prescribed the right treatment. Instead be aware that every time you take a  breath in you are breathing in relaxation and calmness and as you breathe out you are letting go of tension and stress.

3. Stop dealing with other people’s questions and expectations: even  if they have a medical problem and think you are willing to give your opinion whatever the time is and wherever you may be. Instead say ‘no’ assertively, calmly and firmly. Everyone including you is entitled to some leisure time and  tell them to make an appointment to see you professionally if they want your professional expertise.

Taking work home with you

A very common challenge amongst doctors who strive for a more balanced life is how to stop taking work home with them.

There are at least three  ways work  doesn’t stay in the hospital or clinic and ends up going home with you:

1. Taking physical documents, patient’s files and journals with you in order to catch up during the evening or weekend.

2. Taking thoughts with you so that you find it difficult to ‘switch off’ and continue  thinking about a particular patient and whether or not you might have missed something or prescribed the right treatment.

3. Dealing with other people’s questions and expectations: they have a medical problem and think you are willing to give your opinion whatever the time is and wherever you may be.

What do you do to make a clear division between work and leisure time?

Please comment in the box below.

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Leaving or staying in Medicine?

Not so much the patients themselves or even the mental challenge of taking their history, doing the examination, arranging appropriate investigations and deciding on the best treatment, but more the aggravation of too much to do in the day, the lack of co-operation from others, the demands made of you, all add up to make you wonder if you really want to carry on for years more.

The dilemma is this: do you really want to give it all up, pack it all in and if so for what? Do you really want to let go of all those years of specialised training and start again with something entirely different and new?

You will be a better doctor if you spend some time away from it

Everyone gets ‘stale’ when they don’t  have a break away from work. After a few days doing something entirely different you will come back with added energy and enthusiasm. That can only be beneficial for not only you but for your patients too.

You will develop other skills and interests for when you eventually retire

When the time comes to leave Medicine you will have lots of possibilities for what you can do instead.

Find out if Coaching could enable you to make the decison right for you.

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Delegate more to improve your work life balance

As a doctor who wants to have better work life balance you will find that asking for help is a vital part of having more time for yourself. Getting other people to do some of those tasks which have to be done by somebody but not necessarily by you.
Being able to delegate more effectively is an important talent to have in order to give yourself more time to do either those things which require your specialised medical skills and also to have more time for your hobbies and other leisure activities.
1. Choose the right tasks to delegate. They should be things you can describe easily to someone else so they do exactly what is required.

2. When you delegate you are ultimately responsible for the result so it’s important to set up the work appropriately.

3. Be very clear about exactly what you want to other person to do. Problems with delegation arise if you haven’t specified what you expect from the other person.

4. Teach the person you are delegating to how you want the job done or if they say they already know how to do it ask them to show you. When you watch the way someone approaches a task you may find that you learn something from them especially if they achieve the same result in a different way from you.

5. Watch how the person you have delegated to manages the task and give constructive feedback if necessary. Notice what they find difficult to do or what they are not doing and encourage them to improve their skills if necessary.

6. Let them get on with the task once you have told them what you want and taught them how to do it. People don’t like being watched all the time. You have to trust that they will get on with the task and put into practice what’s needed.

7. Make sure you have regular checks of what they are doing, especially initially, so that both you and they know they are doing what you want them to do.

8. Enjoy the extra time you now have and make sure you fill it with something useful and not use it with time wasters unless these are how you relax because relaxation is too.

Are these the biggest 12 challenges for doctors today?

doctor with headache

  1. Goal setting: Setting goals: Vital to set SMART goals so you can be very clear about what you want.
  2. Work life Balance: Balancing work and life – there is more to life than work.
  3. Managing time – essential for making space for a new life to happen.
  4. Self care: Deciding what you have forgotten to do lately and make a commitment to improve your self care
  5. Environment and behaviour: Noticing how small changes in your environment and or your behaviour result big positive effect
  6. Capability: you may be needing to learn some new skills and or   teaching some skills to people around you.
  7. Beliefs and Values: recognising that some beliefs are powerful enough to stop your change, yet beliefs can be changed.
  8. Identity: You are not your job or profession. Noticing how your ideas about who you are, may be stopping you doing what you want.
  9. Purpose:  Discovering why you are here and by doing this being motivated to achieve your purpose.
  10. Communication skills: Being  able to communicate what you want to do when it affects others and learning how to do this more effectively
  11. Stress management:  Learning techniques to reduce or get rid of stress.
  12. Creativity: getting in touch with your creative side which may have been dormant if your job has encouraged you to follow rigid procedures.

Comments  and additions ….please add yours.

Work Life Balance – avoiding emotional blackmail

As a busy doctor working hard, not only at your day to day job but also trying to have more balance in your life, you must avoid a particular trap. It might be called ‘emotional blackmail’ because that’s what it seems to be. You have two opposing forces fighting inside you: that part of you which  has planned to do something special when you get home that day and the other opposing force which doesn’t want to let colleagues down.
Here is a typical scenario: a colleague becomes ill and has to go home yet there is a clinic to finish  a ward round to do and emergency patients to admit and you are the doctor who is there.
‘Can you just see these extra few patients?’  ‘It won’t take long, can you speak to someone on the phone?’ ‘Please will you check Mrs So and So, she’s not feeling too good?’; Whatever the request made of you, you know that responding to it will take much more than the few minutes promised and your plans for the evening will be gone again. What’s the answer? It’s a difficult one isn’t it? You know that by the nature of working as a doctor you must be willing to drop everything in the case of emergencies but are these emergencies? You will need to make a rapid assessment of each request and have the confidence to say ‘no’ to all except those which can be considered extremely urgent and important. For the others you must say an assertive ‘no’ I don’t have the time to do that.

A similar but slightly different situation is when perhaps that same colleague will be away from work for a few days and you are asked to do  extra clinic sessions, for example, to cover the work not being done. You had planned to do things with your friends and family at those times yet so often you find yourself saying ‘yes I’ll be able to do that,’
because you don’t want to upset the person asking you. If you’ve done that recently contact them now and say ‘I’m sorry I can’t  help you out this time.’
Doing this may seem to be a difficult thing to day. But do you know what the likely response will be?  It is highly likely to be: ’ OK. That’s fine. I’ll ask someone else. It’s not a problem, don’t worry.’