Nicholas Kusnezov, MD, gives his advice on how to avoid burnout by balancing your medical practice with your personal and family life.
In medicine, balance is essential and moderation is important. It is all too easy to get completely consumed by your job. This is especially true of surgical specialties, where there is no such thing as shift work and you are essentially perpetually on-call for your patients.
Life outside of medicine
I balance out my ever increasingly busy work schedule with a robust personal life. Work hard, play hard!
I am a strong believer that fitness is a core component to personal satisfaction and general happiness, and as a result I incorporate weightlifting and athletics such as racquetball and basketball into my day. I have a gym membership at every location that I cover. I will often use the gym as a good opportunity not only to get my exercise in but to spend quality time with my wife, who is an excellent gym buddy.
Additionally, with two young daughters, my hobbies have gradually been replaced by theirs, with an emphasis on cheerleading and gymnastics. Family time is important, and an optimal work-life balance is difficult but important to strive for. Medicine can be grueling at times and without a good work-life balance, burnout is inevitable. Conversely, with good balance, burnout can be avoided all together.
Locums can benefit your personal life
Working locums allows you to supplement your personal life in a number of positive ways. First and foremost, locums can provide you with substantial supplemental income, allowing you to enjoy extravagances such as travel, fine dining, and other purchases which you might not otherwise feel comfortable making.
Furthermore, you have the opportunity to take your family on whichever assignments you take, potentially even structuring family vacations around those trips. This gives you the opportunity to travel and explore together.
Finding work/life balance
As mentioned above, work-life balance is difficult to attain in surgical subspecialties. Finding a good balance is a constant endeavor and almost an art.
There are a few factors which I believe are essential to finding a good balance. First, find assignments which give you personal satisfaction. There is truth to the saying that if you enjoy your job, you never work a day in your life. I love my job. Don’t get stuck covering assignments which may pay better but which you do not enjoy. In the end, the extra money is not worth it. On the same note, make sure that you are getting compensated appropriately. Know your worth and avoid feeling like you are being overworked and underpaid for what you do.
Second, know your limits. Make sure to ease into busy schedules, high-volume assignments, or demanding call. If you’re new to locums, I would start with lower-acuity and lower-volume assignments (as I did) and find out both what your comfort level is and what the ideal duration of an assignment is for you. For instance, a weekend of high-acuity trauma call may be satisfying, but one week of similar coverage may utterly burn you out. Understand what you are committing to.
Lastly, figure out the ways that you effectively burn off stress. This might be family time, exercise, or other extra-vocational activities. This is an important counterbalance to your work and is a essential component in avoiding burnout.