Work/Life Balance: When Life Impacts Work
These days much focus is placed on how the changes and challenges in healthcare are impacting physician well being and Work/Life balance, with downstream consequences to patient care and safety. But little attention is given to the personal lives of physicians and how responsibilities and relationships outside of work can take a toll, as well.
Extreme Distractibility: A Case in Point
In our consulting work, an organization approached us with concerns about a primary care physician who had been going through a particularly difficult divorce while at the same time struggling with an adolescent daughter who’d been in and out of treatment for a variety of behavioral health issues.
The physician was so concerned about his daughter he continuously dropped everything to accept cell phone calls from her and her siblings, no matter what he was doing. Patient feedback about the distractions was reaching not just his colleagues, but also the organization’s CEO. In addition to distracted patient care and disruptions in the schedule, the physician had also fallen deeply behind in case management and record keeping. The organization was concerned, but very much wanted to retain the physician, whose contributions were highly valued and whose performance, until recently, had been above reproach.
Working with the physician and referring practice, a support plan for the distracted doctor was developed:
- Agreed: no cell phone in the exam room
- A temporary reduction in administrative duties and clinical load to allow time for family concerns and to catch up on documentation
- Professional support resources to help the physician work through his family and parenting challenges and find ways to more effectively balance work and life concerns
When we coach physicians around responding to issues in personal life, or finding work/life balance, we’ve found there are three major areas where taking a different approach can make a big difference.
Better time managemenTThis can be a challenge due to many conflicting demands. Some ways to manage time more effectively:
- Sit down with family members to discuss and negotiate relationship expectations.
- Learn to say “no” to unreasonable requests; avoid over commitment.
- Better align priorities and values between home and work.
- Look for areas where limits can be set on boundaries and time—both at home and work—and stick to them.
- Seek mentors who model good time management and ask for their advice and guidance.
Relationship problems can be a drain on both time and emotional energy. Some ways to strengthen relationships at both work and home:
- Engage in necessary conversations regarding conflict. Addressing conflict and moving beyond it can make an enormous difference in your feelings and perceptions.
- Set regular times to get together with family and friends, and stick to them.
- Find time for scheduled family meetings and meals together. Everyone may have to give a little to make this happen, but it will be worth it.
- Give people the benefit of a doubt and avoid jumping to conclusions. Work on identifying obstacles to trust.
- Be open to reasonable feedback.
- Ask for help and delegate responsibilities and duties when possible.
Practicing good self-care establishes a solid foundation for coping. Some ways to do this include:
- Enroll in a yoga, Pilates, or mindfulness meditation class to reduce stress.
- Read fiction, write in a journal, or meditate.
- Identify more ways to integrate exercise into daily life.
- Improve nutrition by sitting down to breakfast, taking a break for lunch, bringing healthy snacks to work, and being there for family dinners.
- Take care of mental and emotional needs. Acknowledge losses and take time to grieve.
- Identify workplace and personal challenges that create stress, and develop an action plan for addressing or coping with them.
For more information, read 15 Practical Tips To Improve Physician Work/Life Balance or Restoring Work/Life Balance: Why Healthcare Executives Should Care.
We Can Help
Need help improving your work/life balance? As part of your Physicians Well Being Resources benefits, members are encouraged to give us a call at 877.731.3949 to schedule an appoint with a Peer Coach who understands and has lived through the unique challenges facing physicians, providers and advanced practioners in healthcare today.