Physician technology to assist with ultrasound procedures.
Physician technology to assist with ultrasound procedures.

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Tips for achieving work-life balance during residency

Table of Contents

By April Bailey

Screen Shot 2014 09 03 at 10.12.21 AMIn 2011, Dr. Karen S. Sibert, an anesthesiologist in California, wrote a controversial opinion piece for the New York Times, declaring that “physicians cannot have it all” and that medicine is not meant to be a part-time interest. Many disagreed, arguing that doctors can and do have lives outside work and have been achieving healthy balances for years.

Having made it through medical school, you likely already know a thing or two about the survival skills it takes to make it through rigorous programs. Continuing to develop these skills will enable you to make it through the demanding years of residency while maintaining some semblance of balance.

Here are a few tips—which draw on advice from the American Academy of Family Physicians, Residency Secrets, the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges—to help you develop a healthy work-life balance as a new doc:

  • Manage your time intentionally: Take advantage of time off as an opportunity to rest—even when it’s tempting to try to catch up on work.
  • Ask for help: Independence is important, but don’t let the desire to be independent make you too proud to ask others for help when you need it.
  • Foster relationships: Building on the last tip—it may be impossible to get help if you burn bridges with colleagues. No one will want to switch shifts with the resident who has a reputation for not playing nice.
  • Take a minute to stay in touch: Your loved ones know you’re busy, but don’t forget to take 60 seconds here and there to send short texts or emails to let them know they’re on your mind. Receiving texts in return can brighten your own long days.
  • Choose your friends wisely: When you’re away from work, try not to discuss work constantly. To ensure this happens, try befriending some individuals who work in other fields.
  • Leave it at the hospital: Don’t make a habit of bringing your work home. Everyone can benefit from a post-shift vent session every so often, but if it becomes a daily habit, your irritable mood can rub off on those around you.
  • Say no and accept it: Early in residency, it’s tempting to try to make a good first impression by accepting every opportunity that comes your way. But, frankly, you don’t have time to participate in everything; it’s okay to say no.
  • Be strategic with your leave time: Planning your time off strategically will help ensure you’re able to use it the way you hope to.
  • Exercise and eat healthy: If you squeeze in exercise when you can, you’ll reap the many benefits it brings—energy, more immunity to illnesses and the sense of being mentally refreshed.

Though it will take time to develop a healthy work-life balance, do not be discouraged. You have what it takes to survive and thrive in residency.

Looking for more tips on work-life balance? Check out these articles:

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