How Doctors can achieve a better work-life balance

By , Melinda McCarthy published on 06/05/2020 Lifestyle, Locum work, Permanent Jobs,

For doctors, putting the ‘life’ back into work-life balance is easier said than done—here are some tips to get you there. 

It's no secret that doctors work long hours. Many work between 40 and 60 hours a week, with some working up to 80 hours once you include back-to-back hospital shifts and on-call. Balancing professional and personal commitments can be difficult and sometimes stressful, with doctors spending a disproportionate amount of time at work.

With many patients to see, administrative duties, charting, teaching, meetings and community outreach activities, doctors can find it challenging to maintain their own personal wellbeing; when you don't feel your best, you can't work your best. To help our doctors manage their work-life balance while they’re undertaking medical jobs, we’ve gathered some tips for making sure you take care of yourselves so you can provide the best patient care at work.

Take care of your body

With medical professionals advising patients to get regular exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep for their physical and mental health, it’s important that they follow this advice as well. 

Getting at least seven hours’ sleep, eating fresh fruit and veg, and exercising at least three times a week can help build physical strength, enhance energy levels and boost your mood, making it easier to get through a day’s work without crashing. 

Scheduling and prioritising time for sleep, a workout, or for home cooking and meal prepping, will help you build a healthy routine and stick to it. 

Group fitness hubs like gyms and yoga classes are likely closed due to COVID-19 lockdown measures in Australia and New Zealand, however there are numerous readily accessible bicycle tracks and parks to work out in.

Take care of your mind

Practicing mindfulness can be beneficial for both concentrating while working or relaxing at home. 

Taking five to ten minutes to breathe deeply, focus on your senses, and ground yourself in the present moment (whether you are about to see a patient, or about to make dinner), helps to settle your mind and decrease distractions, allowing you to work more efficiently or get the break you really need. 

Additionally, always schedule some ‘me’ time to do the things that you love. Whether it’s cooking, gardening, walking, knitting, reading, communicating with friends and family, or watching a film, taking time to do what’s important to you personally will give you a mental boost, enabling you to have a proper break before launching back into work. Make a list of your favourite pastimes, and try to do one of them every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes.

Set Boundaries

Wherever possible, try to delegate surplus tasks so that you don’t end up taking on more work than is necessary or reasonable for you to do on your own. 

Often, it’s possible to get help from administrative staff, practice nurses or medical assistants with extra tasks like paperwork and follow-ups. It is important also to remember that you can say “no” to additional tasks that would overload your schedule and bring you unnecessary physical or mental strain. 

Take Time Out

When you can, try to take a break by getting outside for some fresh air, making a cup of tea or coffee, or chatting to (or Skyping with) a coworker. Try not to schedule back-to-back appointments from 8am to 5pm. Grab 10 minutes for yourself where you can, walk around the block, read a book or an article, and take a lunch break.  

Having a demanding job requires an equally relaxing and rejuvenating time away from work in order to achieve balance. Don’t forget to organise things that you can look forward to outside the hospital department, clinic, or telehealth workspace. This can range from simple home-based activities through to weekend getaway plans after travel restrictions have eased. 


Young locum GP exploring Hooker Valley on New Zealand's South Island

Young locum GP exploring Hooker Valley on New Zealand's South Island

Sometimes a change is all you need—have you thought about locum work?

If you’ve tried all the above but you still can’t achieve a better work-life balance, if you feel overworked and dissatisfied like many doctors do, it might be time to consider a sea change. 

Take a break from your regular routine and work as a locum doctor. Locum work gives you the freedom and flexibility to work when and where you want. It’s like being your own boss: you can plan your locum work around family commitments and holidays, and not the other way around. A break from your usual routine can give you a new lease of life, so when you do go back to your regular work, you’ll feel reinvigorated. 

Are you ready for a more permanent move?

If locum work isn’t your thing, you might think about partnering with an agency like Ochre Recruitment: we can help you with a permanent career move that suits your work-life preferences. 

Our recruitment teams understand what you want from your next role and discuss all your options. We will provide you with market insights, put you in touch with other doctors we have worked with, and reach out to our network of hospitals and practices in the public and private sectors. We are happy to do all the legwork for you—that’s what we do best.

If you are one of the many GPs and medical doctors who are fed up with ‘work’ time creeping into ‘life’ time, and you want to balance out the amount of time you spend in practice or at the hospital with the amount of time you spend with your family or doing things you enjoy, take a step back. Take the time to reassess and reset both your work and life goals—this can be helpful in achieving balance.

Wherever you’re at with your medical career, Ochre Recruitment will work with you to help you achieve your ideal work-life balance. We are doctors for doctors, so if you’re not already part of our community of doctors, join today.

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