The challenge for more experienced physicians

Tips for finding the right work-life balance

Paula S. Katz | October 14, 2015

Q: I’m an older physician. Is it my imagination, or is it tougher for me to find work-life balance than younger physicians?

A: Yes, it is more difficult for you. For more seasoned physicians like you, your careers were your lives. As a group, you’re more used to working 60 hours a week.

For Millennials, by comparison, the No. 1 priority is work-life balance. You don’t hear many 60-year-old physicians saying that. Millennials are more amenable to doing things for themselves and tend to give themselves more permission to take time off.

I often hear from older physicians, “I don’t have time for stress management.” I say, “Yes you do. Tell me about your day. Write it down. Is there anything at first glance you can take off? An older physician will typically say, ‘Yes. Lunch.’ I say no to that.”

I ask, “What do you do when they overbook you? How do you get out at 4:30 p.m. when you usually get out at 7:30 p.m.? Who can you talk to in your organization or office to vent how you feel? Take 10 minutes to talk to your peers over coffee.” Sharing builds support. Normalizing taking time out of your day for yourself gives you permission to do so. That’s a big thing, like taking half an hour out of your day to read a crime novel.

I had one physician who started walking the dog. Even something that small can reap benefits. He told me, “My wife is much happier because I’m not so crabby.”

Response from Deb Wood, PhD, senior consultant and certified employee assistance professional with Minneapolis-based VITAL Worklife, a national behavioral health consulting organization.


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