The Secrets of Physician Work-Life Balance


Finding the right physician work-life balance means taking care of your emotional and physical well-being. The key to maintaining a good work-life balance is to check in with yourself at regular points during the day, week and month. This helps you identify times of stress. Determining when you experience stress allows you to plan for extra rest and relaxation.

[RELATED: Discover everything you need to know about physician burnout and promoting well-being in your institution.]

Get Enough Sleep

A doctor’s workday usually does not allow for much rest. Working a 28-hour day does not allow you to have enough time to sleep. When you lack sleep, you are prone to make errors in treating patients. Look for ways to maximize the amount of sleep you get and the quality of that sleep. Eat well before bedtime to allow for normal digestion. Also eat a balanced, healthy meal with a low amount of salt and alcohol. Seek treatment for mental health issues and insomnia that could keep you up at night.

Get Enough Downtime

Physician work-life balance requires downtime. This is defined as time for fun and exploration. Use your days off to engage in relaxing yet interesting new activities. Camping, reading, exercise, taking walks, playing games, meeting new people, dinners with friends or family, and day trips are all good choices. Avoid activities that involve a lot of use of technology with artificial light and heavy use of alcohol. These activities cause you to lose track of time and disturb your circadian rhythm.

Get Enough Time Outside

Studies indicate getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D helps prevent respiratory infections. Taking brief walks outside on your breaks is a good way to increase your exposure to the sun. You can also incorporate gardening, short nature walks or long hikes into your daily or weekly activities. In addition, think of enjoying many leisure activities outside. For example, play tennis instead of racquetball. Sit on a dining patio when eating. You can even do tasks on the computer outside if you use an extension cord.

Take Time Off When Sick

You tell patients to do this, but it also applies to you. Resting when you are sick reduces the potential of you infecting a patient. It also allows you to fully recover and gives you time to destress. Despite the obvious need for doctors to be healthy and attentive while working, most doctors work when sick. The question then becomes, how sick is too sick? Talk to other physicians in your workplace to assess the norm. Generally, you should not be working when you have the flu, are recovering from a serious treatment like surgery or radiation therapy, or are experiencing symptoms (such as severe cramps) that inhibit regular abilities, like walking.

How Can I Monitor My Well-Being?

Pay attention to your concerns by using The Physician Well-Being Index ©. The Index is a widely utilized tool that assesses your well-being. The Index begins with nine assessment questions. After you complete the test, the site compares your score with normative data from a sizeable national sample of practicing physicians. You can use your score to identify whether you are at risk for adverse consequences, are satisfied with your career or would like to leave your current practice. This tool, created by the Mayo Clinic, allows you to create a personalized evaluation. Over 20,000 physicians have now used the Index. 

Your score can provide you and your workplace an understanding of your needs and how to prevent burnout. The Physician Well-Being Index is a good place to start understanding how you and your workplace can improve together to restore physician work-life balance.


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