5 Proven Tips to Achieve a Better Work-Life Balance for Physicians and Healthcare Professionals
Physician burnout is a big problem and learning how to improve work-life balance is one way doctors can help reduce this serious issue. Improving a life balance doesn’t have to be that difficult. Applying simple strategies to your daily routine, such as delegating more and getting a better grasp on efficient medical documentation can help.
Around one in three doctors experience burnout at any given time. Not only can burnout interfere with your wellbeing, it can also jeopardize your ability to deliver quality patient care.
According to results of a Medscape survey of over 12,000 physicians, healthcare workers, particularly critical care providers (51% of all physicians surveyed) seem to have a higher risk for burnout.
Also, research shows doctors work around 51.4 hours per week, with almost one in four (23.5%) working around 61 to 80 hours per week. When you factor in sleep, it’s not hard to see why there’s not much time left for anything else outside of medicine.
Burnout due to a lack of work-life balance, can have significant negative consequences both personally and professionally. For instance, burnout can lead to things like:
- Broken relationships
- Substance abuse
Professionally it can:
- Impair quality of patient care
- Lower patient satisfaction
- Lead to medical errors that can lead to malpractice suits
Why Physicians struggle to Achieve Good Work-Life Balance?
Both internal and external factors can destabilize work-life balance. While institutions and employers control external factors, you are in control of your internal factors. A few internal and external factors that impact your work-life balance are as follows.
1. Your Profession
Practicing medicine isn’t just a job; it’s a profession. It’s appealing to those exceptional individuals who wish to dedicate their time to serving those who are sick. It involves direct patient care with a common goal of decreasing suffering. This profession can easily lead to you overworking and experiencing a work-life imbalance. You’ll always have:
- Patients to care for
- Electronic medical records to complete
- Patient messages awaiting a response
- Prescription refills to send
- Forms to fill out
It’s easy to allow other areas of your life to slip when you’re passionate about your work.
2. Your Choices
The decisions you make during your med school, residency and fellowship years will contribute to how you achieve an overall life balance. You might have a specific personal situation that will impact where you work and live. Important factors that might impact your work-life balance include:
- Medical school and specialty – picking the right med school can affect your bottom line. Extreme financial debt from medical school is extremely common. Needless to say, some specialties offer higher incomes than others.
- Fellowship – if your specialty requires you to work in a tertiary institution, you will probably have to live in an urban area with higher real estate prices.
- How far away you live from the hospital or clinic – think about how many hours a year you will spend commuting to and from work.
- Cost of living – the place you choose to live will determine your income taxes and real estate prices.
- Being a parent – when you decide to start a family things change.
3. Other People
If you’re married, you’ll need to consider your spouse. In some situations, it might be hard to find a location that will meet both your needs. Will your partner work or stay at home managing the household? Do you have children that need your attention? All these can significantly impact your work-life balance.
For women, childbearing years can interfere with their profession at a critical time when they’re building their career. While the ideal situation is that both parents share responsibility for children, this isn’t always the case.
Along with children, some people are also taking care of aging parents.
5 Tips to Improve Physician Work-Life Balance
Some tips to help improve work-life balance include:
Consider having an additional medical assistant to take care of certain administrative duties in your practice. Outsourcing or delegating what you can will help you improve your work-life balance. Delegating isn’t exclusive to work only. You can delegate different household chores too, to maintain balance at home (i.e. hire a lawn service or maid). You don’t need to handle every task yourself, especially when there are others available to help you out. As a physician, your time is limited, therefore, you’ll want to spend it wisely.
2. Learn to Manage
While you don’t necessarily have to become a practice manager, you should know your practice. This means learning to read reports and getting an understanding of data. Sit down with your practice manager or chief physician and allow yourself some time to become educated.
3. Adjust your On-Call Time
Depending on your practice and specialty, you might work part-time or on-call. This can make it challenging to get out of “work mode.” Adjusting or decreasing your on-call schedule will depend on the way your practice operates and if you have other physicians available to cover you. Being on-call regularly can definitely impact your work-life imbalance.
4. Use of Technology
While technology can be both the cause of work-life imbalance and a potential solution. While EHRs can contribute to physician burnout, there’s still the opportunity of using efficiency tools to organize and manage your practice and restore work-life balance. Every day there are new advances in technology, such as medical dictation and medical voice recognition, which can help physicians significantly reduce their overhead and paperwork time, allowing them to focus on providing outstanding patient care.
5. Expedite your Medical Documentation
You can spend more quality time with your patients instead of being loaded up with documentation work. Using dot phrases and auto-text templates is one of several tips for efficient medical documentation.
Snippets and smart phrases allow you to capture valuable data of your patient visit with very little effort. It keeps you from having to work after hours or work from home to complete your notes. Efficient medical documentation will allow you to control more of your time, so you can enjoy practicing medicine.
A good example is using dot phrases for real-time pre-charting. Whether it is in an outpatient or inpatient setting, you can complete most of your notes before you encounter the patient. You can have a clear idea of the patient’s presentation and needs from their chief complaint and previous notes. This will help you meet your patients expectations and spend more quality time with them instead of worrying about completing your note.
Dot phrases will help save you time since you’ll have most of the patient’s chart completed before you even see them. To achieve this, you can use a tool like Chartnote, which enables you to usually complete a short note in as little as 30 seconds.
Ideally, you want to achieve an overall life balance. You do this through the right mix of the three essential components — work, people and free time. Working longer hours, having many people in your life that require your attention, and having little time to do the things you enjoy is a recipe for exhaustion. In order to experience a more meaningful, satisfying life that will fulfill your unique goals, you have to develop a “personalized” plan that suits you uniquely as well as your work situation and those in your life that depend on you. Or give up on the idea of work-life balance, accept imperfection, and give yourself a break.
While there isn’t one solution to maintain this utopic balance, delegating some responsibilities and using efficiency tools like Chartnote can definitely help. Learn how Chartnote efficient documentation features can help you get an inch closer to work-life balance by helping you go home on time with all your notes completed.
Have you suffered from burnout? Share your tips on achieving work-life balance by commenting below.
Chartnote is revolutionizing medical documentation one note at a time by making voice-recognition and thousands of templates available to any clinician. We know first-hand that completing notes while treating patients is time-consuming and an epic challenge. Chartnote was developed as a complementary EHR solution to write your SOAP notes faster. Focus on what matters most. Sign up for a free account: chartnote.comPosted on: June 25, 2021, by : Gerardo Guerra Bonilla