The demands of the medical profession are such that working as a doctor or nurse can make achieving an appropriate work-life balance nearly impossible. Medical professionals of all stripes have the same problem. The good news is that a good balance is not unachievable. Every healthcare worker can get there with a little bit of effort and some clear thinking.
Work-life balance is now a hot-button issue within the medical profession. Why? There are two reasons: a growing body of evidence showing doctors and nurses suffering burnout at alarming rates and a new commitment among younger professionals to not be overwhelmed by their careers.
A New Definition of Work-Life Balance
The goal to achieve a proper work-life balance is a noble one for medical professionals of all ages. But age may determine how you define a proper balance. Doctors and nurses of the millennial generation do not necessarily see it the same way as their Gen X, Gen Y, and baby boomer counterparts.
The old way of defining work-life balance revolves around getting as close to a 40-hour work week as possible. The thinking is that by limiting yourself to 40 hours, you will have plenty of time to devote to family, leisure activities, and those things that need to be done around the house. But is that definition still valid? Perhaps not.
Younger professionals are more apt to define work-life balance as having a career that is an integral part of the life they lead rather than just something they do to pay the bills. As such, the balance they strive for is constantly in flux. They may be more than happy to work 60 hours per week while still young and single, then strive to get closer to 40 after marriage and children.
Scheduling That Accommodates Family
We are all familiar with the concept of quality versus quantity. Limiting yourself to 40 hours per week does not mean much to work-life balance if off time is still spent away from family. This suggests reworking your schedule so that it accommodates family needs to some extent. This is not to say that family should dictate when and how often a doctor works, but that the clinician needs to account for family needs when arranging the schedule.
Leaving Work and Work
A lot of doctors and nurses struggle with work-life balance because they are not very good at separating the two. Work-life balance dictates that you have to leave work at work. You cannot save the world. You cannot do it at the office, and you certainly cannot do it at home. So when you check out at the end of your shift, leave work completely and go home and be a family member.
Live within Your Means
It is easy for a doctor or nurse to start spending money left and right once those paychecks start coming in. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to quickly find yourself living beyond your means. This affects work-life balance by forcing you to take extra shifts in order to cover your debts.
You can do yourself a big favor by living within your means. Use every penny you earn to pay your bills first. What’s left should go toward eliminating your indebtedness. The sooner you can get out of debt, the more disposable income you will have to enjoy the kind of lifestyle you want without incurring more indebtedness. Then you won’t have to work as hard either.
Work-life balance is something a lot of doctors and nurses strive for. Not all of them find it, but that’s only because they’re looking in the wrong places.