Work-Life Balance, is it just a social media hype?

Is the work-life balance just a hype? Is it just something medical bloggers like to talk about to make their highlight reel even more of a sparkling + perfect feed?

Well… statistics say our millennial generation finds it to be not just a hype- but a necessity. But it’s not like there have been major domestic tasks & responsibilities that have actually evolved to accommodate this. Just a change in perspective…

This perspective of ‘balance’ may imply that when at work we’re actually dissatisfied with our work life when that’s not really the best way to stay ‘balanced’, am I right?

Physicians have stated that instead of maintaining a separation of work & life activities -they instead found enjoyment in incorporating the responsibilities of ALL daily duties as ONE instead of separating work & non-work duties… in turn doing this resulted in a greater feeling of ‘balance’ overall.

The concept of work-life balance is not so straightforward- if it were, physician burnout wouldn’t be all over the news like wildfire every few months... Finding an integration between research, clinical practice, family, friends, health, fitness — the list could really go on forever & just really becomes a headache to deal with. So how do we prevent burnout as healthcare providers & to pass along to our future generation?


1.         Cultivate MEANING & PURPOSE: Many healthcare professionals lose passion in their everyday because they have lost sight of their purpose somewhere between the 12hr back to back shifts & lack of sleep. This brings me to my #1 tip to finding YOUR BALANCE- start doing things that INTENTIONALLY remind you of WHY you went into medicine, why you decided to commit your life to bettering the lives of others, etc. 
Maybe this means reassuring yourself that your efforts are still contributing to another’s life positively through small acts like: calling up on patients to connect the full circle of patient care. See how prior patients are doing since their previous visit with you, call their son/daughter if a patient has passed, go out of your way to make sure your staff/coworkers know they’re family & feel supported, encourage your children from afar even if you can’t make it to special events because of a busy schedule. 
I’m sure you can see a trend, a lot of this has to do with reassessing your attitude toward daily responsibilities & shifting it to see the bigger picture outside of your loaded schedule for the week.

For students: this means developing a sense of meaning and purpose that will continue to grow as you practice this perspective- it will contribute toward your acquisition of new information, retention of knowledge you’re learning in classes, and ultimately make you more of passionate & focused provider in the future. As you hone this skill of finding purpose in your studies to manifest into caring for future patients rather than “just studying for an exam”.

2.         Self-Care: Shocker, right? But in reality how well are you going to take care of someone else if you’re hanging on by a thread? I know, I know-- you already know this. But what’s standing in the way to getting quality rest, exercising, staying hydrated, or getting a decent meal in for the day? 

For starters: 
·     Schedule personal time to catch up on your physical & mental health
·     Schedule realistic days & times to get a workout in (& stick to it)
·     Find simple ways to maintain a healthy diet instead of resorting to fast food
·     Spend time outside. This will be more therapeutic than you may think…
·     Adjust your on-call time
·     Take breaks between patients or if you can get the front desk to start making a point in the day throughout patient when you can catch a breath. 

Ultimately self-care is going to look different for everyone& it’s okay if sometimes self-care looks like getting rest for 12 hours straight after a terrible shift. … follow me to the end of this post to see what my fellow PA colleagues do to find their balance. 

3.         Time Management/Prioritizing Appropriately: Be present as much as possible. If you’re doing a task, stick to it without distractions. Set a timer for whatever you’re about to do & allow yourself to be productive with this time, focused, and complete the task. Just by being more productive the remainder of your day is likely to reduce your level of stress drastically. 
Don’t have the self-control to stay away from surfing the web or to stay off your phone from distractors? Luckily, there are soooo many tools for this!

Here are a couple top productivity apps:
·     Todoist: for all of your todo makers out there
·     Be Focused Timer
·     Loop – Habit tracker
·     Brain FM: to prevent the small distractions of environmental noises around you
·     Evernote +
·     Unroll.Me 

4.         Develop meaningful relationships both at work & outside of work:  I’m a huge advocate of community. Being surrounded by others who encourage you or can simply listen to you can make the biggest difference & sometimes we just have to let it all out in order to efficiently move on (abiding by HIPAA, of course). We weren’t created to handle all of life’s problems (not to mention personal life problems on top the burden we take on from our patient’s) on our own – so why do we try to muscle through it alone? Find others you can trust & build meaningful relationships with them, whether that’s at work or outside of work- we all need a tribe that has our back when we feel burnt out & alone. 

Obviously this topic can truly go on forever & it’s such an important topic to assess within our own life. There’s a reason why the rates of suicide among healthcare providers have sky rocketed & though this is an absolute tragedy we need to take the reins---remember our WHY, become a more supportive communitythough the stakes on the job are high, and create a future of providers that can adapt & overcomethese obstacles together.

Ashley MunnsComment