Physician wellness and how doctors can take care of themselves

Oftentimes, when thinking of “wellness,” people first think about the physical health of the human body. And while wellness does include a healthy body, it also encompasses mental health. Just like it is important to take care of your body, it is just as vital to take your mental wellness into consideration. According to Meagan W. Vermeulen MD, co-author of the Career and Life Planning Guidebook for Medical Residents, “there is increasing data that shows the importance of physician emotional health. Not only is burnout a driver of bad outcomes for patients and physicians themselves, but a patient’s perception of a physician’s own wellness often sets the tone for one of the fundamental parts of patient care: the doctor-patient relationship.”

Think about it. If you are a physician who is feeling burnt out, and you haven’t been taking care of your physical or mental self, you will probably start to act out of character. Patients will pick up on this, and it will alter their perception of the care you are providing. For these reasons and more, it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure you are taking care of yourself.

Time management and prioritizing: How it relates to wellness

There’s a reason why many employers seek employees who have mastered the art of time management. It is a skill that takes quite a bit of practice, but it is essential to living a happy and fulfilled life! Physicians who struggle with time management often do not have any issues with completing their work on time. They more so have trouble with managing their time in a way to create a healthy work and personal life balance. Practicing good time management skills is a great way to start your journey towards creating a healthy balance between work and your personal life. This will lead you to healthily managing your wellness.

One of the first steps you can take to managing your time is prioritizing events and tasks that need to be completed. And, don’t forget to add in personal time for yourself. The Eisenhower Decision Matrix is a helpful tool to train your brain in prioritizing events by the level of importance and urgency in which the item needs to be completed.

In addition to using the matrix, here are a few small steps physicians can take to manage their time and also reduce work-induced anxiety. One of the most time-consuming jobs on a physician’s plate can be answering emails. Here are a few tips for managing emails to make life at work more organized and less stressful:

Email management tips

  • Make an agreement with yourself to check your emails periodically rather than every time you receive a notification.
  • Once you answer or check an email, sort it into a file or send it to “trash.” This will declutter your inbox.
  • Search for past emails by using keywords rather than scrolling through your inbox.

Setting boundaries

There’s no question that you are a hard worker! After all, you’ve made it this far, and we all know you couldn’t have done that if you hadn’t worked tirelessly to get here. There is no reason to continue to work yourself to the point where you become physically and emotionally drained and burned out. By setting boundaries for yourself, you will be taking positive big steps towards your physical and mental wellness. Here are five questions you can ask yourself to begin setting your boundaries:

  • What am I capable of?
  • What am I not capable of?
  • What am I willing to do?
  • What am I not willing to do?
  • What are my deal-breakers?

Find your “why”

You have spent a lot of time learning how to be a physician. But, it is important for you to often remind yourself why you became a physician. When times, and the job, gets tough it’ll be this “why” that reminds you the reason you started and why you should keep going. Remind yourself of all the positive reasons you chose the field, and keep in mind that you picked this path to make a better life for yourself and your family. Physicians enter the field to take care of the needs of others and because the job can be very demanding, they often lose their sense of self-care and wellness. It is important for all physicians to reflect on their personal boundaries and values to find their limit when it comes to work and to also create a healthy lifestyle balance.

Todd Skertich is managing partner, Arlington Healthcare and founder, Adventures in Medicine and Physician Career Planning. He is the author of The Art of Physician Negotiation and can be reached on Twitter @adventuresinmed.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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