Tag Archives: work-life balance

Doctor, remember to look after yourself too

Every time you are busy seeing patients in your clinic or surgery you have to recall a wealth of information about them, their condition and about what you can do to help to diagnose and treat their illness. You may have developed your own way to do this so that you follow a routine.

For example after finding out their presenting symptoms asking them in a routine way about each of their body systems in turn so that you get an all over picture of what might be the cause of their illness and what you need to do next to find out more about it.
Yes, as a busy doctor you may be concentrating most of the time on your patients and forgetting to do what you must also do for your personal health and well being.

So you could devise a similar strategy for yourself as you use for your patients. Could you think of a mnemonic to remind you what needs to be checked each day or each week? For example if you said SCREEL to yourself every day and knew this stood for: Spirituality, Community, Relaxation, Exercise, Eating, and Learning would you remember these various aspects of self care which are important to maintain your health and well being as a doctor and as a human.

Spirituality: Connecting with nature, smelling the roses, watching an insect, saying a prayer, meditating, breathing, or whatever you do to connect with something beyond yourself.

Community: it is said that no man is an island, so make sure you connect with others away from work and with those who share your interests.

Relaxation: practice letting go of tension for a few minutes each day.

Exercise: your body needs to move and stretch, your heart needs to beat faster and your limbs need to transport you, so walking, running, doing yoga, dancing or moving in whatever way you can to keep your body working efficiently.

Eating: More fruit and vegetables, olive oil, nuts and protein, less junk, sugar, salt and e-numbers. Eat healthily and become healthier.

Learning: something new each day. Looking up words, reading books, thinking, discovering, learning and keeping your brain functioning well.

If you can think of a more relevant mnemonic for you do so and say it to yourself every day to remind yourself to spend just a few minutes addressing the various parts of your life in this way and as a result your self care will improve enormously.

Coaching enables you to be a doctor and have a life.

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?

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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.