Over the past few decades creating a work-life balance has become a greater priority for physicians. Numerous studies have shown that quality of life is a strong factor in medical student career choices. Quality of life concerns may also affect entry into academic medicine. Besides our clinical goals we have chosen a career in academic medicine because of our interests in education, research and quality improvement, among others. These pursuits outside of clinical duties must often be addressed during off hours. This may mean time away from family, exercise, and other activities. How we choose to make that a balance depends on choosing our goals and priorities.
Setting goals and priorities requires self-reflection and self-awareness as goals may vary from person to person as well as at different points in our lives and careers. Only each individual can determine what is important to his or her own satisfaction in career and life. Contrary to what we may wish or believe – we cannot be everywhere or do everything, but if we are honest with ourselves about what meetings, clinical activities, academic achievements and life events are important to us, creating a balance is made significantly easier.
A key to meeting these career and life goals is communication. Communication with superiors is essential to help identify opportunities in your areas of interest and to clarify expectations. Many may hesitate to discuss openly concerns regarding work-life balance, but the best way to create an open culture that accepts variation in goals and expectations is to begin the conversations ourselves. Changing culture is an ongoing process and requires efforts from leaders and staff members. Finally acceptance of work-life balance as an essential element of our careers may have multi-fold benefits including preventing physician burnout and potentially increasing academic involvement by encouraging those who may be deterred by perceived extra obligations in academic medicine to become more involved.
What are your experiences in working to establish your work/life balance?
- Tell us about how you have adjusted your schedule and goals to maintain a better balance.
- Tell us about experiences in communicating work-life balance issues with your superiors.
- Has your department been open to these concerns?
- Have you noticed a change over the past few decades?