University HealthCare Alliance

June 23, 2016

Achieving Personal Work Life Harmony as a Health Care Provider

Working in healthcare is an honor and a privilege bestowed on only a select few, but it also comes with challenges. Our world is demanding, and it does not stop just because we are doctors or nurses. Finding joy in work comes from performing meaningful work and also from allowing space to enjoy life outside of our professional lives.

The precise recipe for achieving this personal success varies by individual and his or her stage in life. Hopefully, the following ideas and practices help you determine the ingredients needed to enhance your own harmony and fulfillment.

  1. Personal Success is More than Personal Achievement

Professionals often measure success by their career accomplishments. Doctors, for instance, concentrate on metrics such as the number of patients seen, the number of charts closed by the end of the day, the number of lives saved and likability scores. If you find yourself becoming increasingly successful at work but still feeling like it is not enough, it may be time to examine other parts of your life. We are not machines. We need a certain ratio of positive relationships, happy feelings, a sense of meaning or purpose, a high level of engagement in our work or hobbies, and sometimes leaving a legacy to feel fulfilled. Make sure you schedule time in your calendar to accomplish the activities that help you feel whole. You could start by to scheduling an hour a week to start reflecting on what it is that makes you feel more balanced.

  1. Heroics are Not Always Necessary

The medical profession breeds heroes, people who go above and beyond to help their fellow human. However, being a hero every day is neither sustainable nor realistic. A more sustainable and achievable goal is to be a compassionate individual who promotes great teamwork and creates a level of dependability and predictability for the entire team. This consistency then creates space for that rare moment when heroics are necessary instead of where resiliency is always being challenged. Furthermore, offering yourself compassion can make the difference between fulfillment and burnout. Take time off to take care of yourself; it will make you a better partner and a better doctor. Finally, applaud yourself and your colleagues for consistency, honesty, regular communication, and basic friendliness; this goes a LONG way.

  1. Be Intentional about Perspective

In her book “Positivity”, Barbara Frederickson notes that good events fill most of our lives, so much so that they fade into the background. Add to this our evolutionary survival instinct to notice negative stimuli and we tend to be more aware of the bad than of the good. We can better appreciate the good events in life and thus change our perspective simply by adopting a mindful awareness of pleasant things and also by proactively recounting the good things that occurred at the end of each day.

  1. Build Resiliency

The power of keeping a healthy diet, exercising, meditating, sleeping adequately, and being physically and emotionally present with the people we love is immense. In addition to remembering these basics, we can also build our resiliency intentionally by engaging in a mindfulness practice, cultivating compassion, expressing gratitude, or reflecting on the good things in life.

  1. Ask for help

If you are not doing well, ask for help. Call your manager or administrator for help with staffing issues, or dive deeper into the Model Clinic processes to fine tune workflows. You could reach out to your Management Information Liaison or Epic Concierge team for resources to decrease time spent on the electronic medical record. You might want to reach out to the Wellness Committee for suggestions on how to get in touch with a professional coach or a mental health provider. Whatever it is, please do not suffer alone.

  1. Reframe Demands as Wishes

Sometimes it may feel as though you do not have enough to give. It may feel as though coworkers, family, and patients are demanding and unfair. If you feel this way, know that not only are you allowed to set boundaries, but you should. People do not expect you to be a superhero; they probably have no idea how you are feeling and what others are asking from you. A simple reframing can get you started. Ask yourself, “Is this person making a demand or a wish?” Someone might wish that you could provide something for them, but you get to decide if this is reasonable or not. They are relying on you to tell them.

  1. Be in Community

In the mid 20th century, a doctor’s life revolved around his career. The work-life balance was seemingly more straightforward, with daily rounds at the hospital and often weekend socialization with other physician families. Societal expectations have changed, and medicine has become more specialized. This changes come with benefits, but after hours work time is now spent in isolation with a computer instead of in community with others, relaxing or solving problems. Outpatient physicians can function independently quite well, but doing so robs us of the opportunity to be in community. Make an effort to get to know your colleagues. Find common interests and utilize them for reciprocal peer support and mentoring.

Thanks for being part of UHA!

Rachel Roberts, MD
Medical Director, Provider Wellness