The COVID-19 pandemic definitely shined a spotlight on the topic of burnout, especially among providers and staff working in hospitals or first-responder environments. Now, as the pandemic winds down, these healthcare workers are finally starting to experience a bit of relief. However, for providers in specialty practices, the opposite is occurring. Workloads for specialty practices are actually ramping up now, as patients feel safe enough to return for elective procedures that were delayed during the pandemic. Sadly, specialty providers have already been ranked among the top sufferers of burnout for over five years now. This is why it is so important for specialty practices to address burnout now, to avoid allowing this new surge to damage productivity.
On this blog, we’ve already done articles on how technologies such as telehealth as well as EHR can help reduce physician burnout. While technology can certainly help you reduce feelings of burnout, there are a number of “work is life” daily habits that tend to leave a provider feeling overworked and overextended. In this blog, we will take a look at how maintaining a proper work-life balance can help you reduce your own levels of physician burnout.
Specialty providers have been ranked among the top sufferers of burnout for over five years now.
Include Your Personal Time in Your Work Schedule
When you are at your practice office and take a look at your schedule, what do you see? Appointments? Of course. Obligations? Sure. Webinars and meetings? Absolutely. But what about non-work events like vacations or lunches with friends or evening workouts? Are these things viewable on your work schedule? If not, they should be.
A big part of creating a good work-life balance is acknowledging that your off-work time is just as important as your at-work time. Having non-work activities on your schedule will help you to accomplish the other work-life balancing methods in this blog by helping you remember that there is more to your life than work.
Make Your Self-Care Activity a Priority
Some of you may be familiar with the 1980 film The Shining, where a burned out and supernaturally tormented writer bangs out the words “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again on his typewriter (while his wife believes he’s been writing a novel). Before the movie is over, he goes completely berserk, chases his family around the house with an axe and eventually freezes to death alone in the snow.
You don’t want to end up like Jack, do you?
Admittedly, it’s unlikely you’ll go quite that crazy (we hope). However, the truth for specialty providers is that “All work and no play will make Jill/Jack an overworked mess with terrible health and too much stress in her/his life.” Your life is about more than just practicing medicine, and you should set aside self-care activities at least once a week (if not more frequently). Whether weekly or semi-daily, you should set up a recurring slot in your schedule for your self-care activity, which could be any of the following things:
- Time at the gym
- Weekly massage
- Reading time
- Date night with spouse or significant other
Your chosen self-care activity does not have to be something on the above list. These activities are only suggestions, after all. You can choose to do anything that appeals to your own interests and reduces your stress.
Learn to Say “No”
No matter what form of self-care activity you choose to do… it won’t do you any good unless you actually do it. This means learning to say “No.” Of course, that is often easier said than done and may require you to break some common tendencies and behaviors. Doing this bring us back to the idea mentioned earlier—that you need to consider your off-work time as equally important to your at-work time.
There is a tendency among providers to look at work as a priority and self-care as a luxury. As a result, when things come up unexpectedly, self-care is often the first thing to be sacrificed. You may need to work hard to break yourself of this behavior. Practice saying “No” in front of a mirror, if necessary. For example, rehearse phrases such as “I have a standing obligation at that time and so we will need to reschedule it to another date/time.” Having these dates/times blocked off on your work calendar, as already mentioned, will make it far easier for you to do this as well as reduce the likelihood that you will be asked to do so.
When You Can’t Say No
Of course, it is impossible to always say no to every unexpected situation that conflicts with your self-care time. Sometimes, emergencies will come up that require your attention and simply cannot be avoided. In these situations, it is very important to resist the urge to just cancel your self-care activity for that week. Instead, you should do your best to reschedule it for another time that week and then stick to your guns on it. The important thing is that you do not let cancelling your self-care become a habit.
While technology can help reduce burnout, managing your own work-life balance has a far more profound effect when it comes to reducing stress and recharging your batteries. By implementing the simple techniques in this blog, you can improve your work-life balance and reduce your levels of burnout.
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