Things they didn’t teach in medical school: Part 27 Managing work-life balance

OK – so many will argue that this is a topic I know very little about…and maybe they are right….or maybe, the way our patient care should be, the truth is that work-life balance should be a very individualized concept.

I know doctors that span the spectrum from their job being part-time and just enough to provide them with an income to pursue their hobbies right through to doctors, for whom, well, work is their hobby and what gives them the greatest satisfaction in life.

I think at the end of the day work-life balance is about finding satisfaction and meaning in day-to-day life and being able to recognize when you need time out from work (or life) to set a balance and recalibrate. For doctors the first step is actually leaving work but the next step is managing time away from work. The big problem for all professions in the 21st century is being ‘always on’. Mobile telephony, SMS, email, twitter, Facebook, and even pagers (remember those) mean that you can be always on. Specific breaks from these points of contact to protect yourself and your family are important – even if you aren’t very good at it (beep….the phone went off again….I wonder who it is).

Whilst I recognize the important of work-life balance of all the things they didn’t teach in medical school this has to be the least formulaic – i.e. maybe it can’t be taught but perhaps there is just advice. Such advice might be – if you have a hobby or an interest then pursue and indulge in it, especially when work is getting you down. And I can’t be prescriptive – maybe you get off on crochet with shaved armpit hair, maybe you are a nude sky-diver (not recommended), you run until you are blue and your knees rebel against your thighs, you grow poisonous plants, play the sitar or in my case listen to 365 different string quartets in a year.

Bottom line is find your own balance.

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