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Work-Life Balance

Have you ever wondered if work-life balance is possible in medicine? If you will be able to balance being a mother and a doctor? A wife and a doctor? A friend and a doctor? Have you ever wondered if work-life balance even exists? Dr. Nadia Sabri shares her thoughts on work-life balance and her 10 strategies for prioritizing balance in her life and career.

For many physicians, work life balance can seem unattainable. Given the intensity of the type of work we do and hectic schedules, how to even begin to prioritize wellness and balance? Some reflections on things physicians need to know about work life balance.

Dear Young Women in Medicine,

We are professional healers.

We take care of people’s problems all day, every day.

It is an honor and a privilege.

However, our profession of caring takes its toll on us. It's not easy. Compassion fatigue and physician burnout are both terms with which you are probably exquisitely familiar.

At one time or another, we can become tired, angry, or jaded physicians with no time for anything and missing out on the things that make life (and us) fun.

If people answer honestly about burnout, most would probably say, 'been there, done that'. Read more on why burnout isn't a fair fight and why we all lose when physicians burn out. You likely know colleagues and friends who have experienced one or both of these things.

Burnout rates vary by specialty per AMA and continue to increase.

The big question we keep asking is: how to balance our intense work while maintaining our sanity and happiness?

Unlike in residency where our voices can go quiet and work life balance is a joke, things do change for the better afterwards as you have more control over your time and choices.

Some work life balance truths that resonated with me and helped me prioritize balance in my life, in no specific order:

1. Make your wellness a priority

Make time for self care of your whole self: mind, body, heart, soul. As a committee member on Physician Wellness Program of the Travis County Medical Society (TCMS), I cannot stress enough that work life balance and wellness needs to be a priority. Start with you and make yourself a priority.  Recognize your human emotions and experience. Reach out.

2. Don't forget who you are as an individual

Yes, you're a physician but that shouldn't be the only thing that defines you. Don't forget that. Your degree is only one part so don’t let it bind you. Read more on the truths and challenges of being a doctor mom.

3. Grant yourself space and time to really live

It took a health scare for me to realize that I needed to slow down and make the most of my life. Things can be unpredictable, no matter how detailed our plans for the future. Instead, make the moment yours and start living your best life.

4. Work with balance

For decades, we've unwaveringly dedicated our focus and energy to become physicians. We've been programmed to think that working all the time makes us better doctors.  So, when we get tired, we just work harder.

But why? Working non-stop doesn't make us "better", it probably just makes us grumpy and tired. So, try to step back a little and work with balance. Work less if you can. Don't overdo the extra calls or moonlighting shifts. Don't make all of your off time work-centric. Don't let your entire life pass you by without taking some time to enjoy it. Time is precious and we can never get it back.

5. Have a life outside your medical career

Spend time cultivating relationships with family, friends, SOs.  Resume hobbies. Start a side gig that can be related or unrelated to clinical medicine.  Learn a new skill. Travel. Get outside your bubble.

6.  Be your own advocate

Whether it be for sick days, maternity leave, time for pumping breaks at work, or even a vacation, know your rights and stand up for yourself. Don't let anyone bully you or guilt you into commitments or responsibilities with which you are not comfortable.

7.   Accept that you are not perfect

Recognize you won't and don't know everything. Every day and every patient is a learning experience. Expecting perfection is an unrealistic goal. You are human. And that it more than ok.

8.  Know you are worth it

Don't settle for less and do not accept devaluation of physician time.

9.  Be your own friend instead of your harshest critic

Inwardly radiate that love you so generously give to others. You are doing a lot and you are doing it well even if it may not always seem that way.

Read more on making space for self compassion.

10.   Most importantly, please remember you are not alone 

Find a support system. Reach out to other physicians too. We've been where you are as a medical student, resident, and as a fresh attending. We know that it is exciting but this medical experience is a demanding one that never ends.

Please do not let it consume you.

We are all in this together.

Through our collective voices, we can advocate for positive changes for you, for us, and for future generations of physicians.


A Physician on your side, your colleague in medicine and friend in life

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