Work-life balance for physicians: is it possible?

Along with those newly implemented government mandates, technology costs, and changing payment trends, one of the 10 biggest challenges for physicians today is maintaining a work-life balance. More and more private practice doctors are putting in extra hours to manage technology, cash flow, and staffing. In fact, a recent Medical Economics survey found that more than 73 percent of physicians surveyed work more than 40 hours per week, and about 24 percent work more than 60 hours per week.

With all of these increasing demands, physician burnout rates are high. Now, doctors are not just trying to achieve a work-life balance — they are questioning whether that balance even exists.

The short answer? Balance is possible. But it’s not always easy to find.

The benefits to striving for balance impact doctors on a personal level, as well as the larger healthcare system. When physicians are happy and fulfilled, their patients and the industry as a whole will also benefit.

Work-life balance means different things to different people. What feels like “balance” is unique to each individual, and it can change over time. But most experts believe that work-life balance relates to a person’s satisfaction with life, both personally and professionally. And the good news for doctors: it can be achieved even while you’re working long hours.

Here are five tips to get you started on your own journey toward balance:

1. Assess what’s most important to you. What does balance look like for you? Whether it’s spending more time with family, exercising, or volunteering, you should prioritize those aspects of your life. Carving out time to do something that’s important to you will bring you closer to your personal definition of balance — even if you’re still working overtime.

2. Change your behavior and your mindset. Taking steps toward balance will require changes in your behavior. But changes in your mindset will also go a long way. Addressing points of frustration and shifting your attitude will make a significant impact on your sense of balance.

3. Recognize the small victories. Set yourself up for success by working toward small changes, one step at a time. Make goals but take note of the little victories along the way. Focus on positive progress and don’t beat yourself up when you experience setbacks.

4. Remember that balance isn’t permanent. Balance is not a permanent state. Accept the fact that there will be fluctuations, and keep in mind that balance doesn’t always equate to a 50-50 work-life split. That ratio may be different for you and it may change over time. The most important part is consistently taking steps to move toward your own sense of balance, whatever that may be.

5. Find support. Everyone, physician or not, struggles with balance. When possible, delegate tasks to qualified team members to free up more time for patient care or shorten your workday. Find support by reaching out to others, practicing stress management, or tapping into coping techniques. Try out different tips and tricks; keep the ones that work for you and move on from those that don’t.

The idea of work-life balance may seem like a myth, but identifying what “balance” means for you and taking small steps to achieve it is so important. A feeling of balance contributes to overall satisfaction and fulfillment — the foundation of a truly healthy life.


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