Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jennifer Frank, MD: Looking out for each other

Last spring, in a state of somewhat over-worked frenzy, our faculty group got together for a “work-life balance” retreat. We hashed out schedules, expectations, demands, priorities, and realities to come up with a mission statement. This statement outlines a respect for a “healthy balance between personal and professional responsibilities,” “healthy limit setting,” and “open and transparent communication.”

We also discussed the different needs that lead one of my colleagues to round at 5 a.m. in order to fit in all of the items she needs to do in a day and leads another colleague to work part-time so that her balance is not upset.

One thing that recently came to mind was the need to help each other achieve this elusive balance.
Read more
This is a foreign concept in medicine, where workaholism, perfectionism, and all other kinds of unhealthy –isms abound. I don’t remember any residents I worked with as a student or any attendings I worked with as a resident tell me that I looked tired and should go home early to rest. In fact, I remember an attending on my pediatric cardiology rotation reminiscing about his intern days, when he took call every other night. He was told (by his attending) that “if you are only on call every other night, you miss 50 percent of your learning.”

I have been blessed with great colleagues who actually do look out for each other. When I returned to work after a three-month maternity leave, they were understanding of the demands of a new baby, offering to help with rounds or other responsibilities if needed. When one of my colleagues is struggling to complete a paper or presentation, I hope that I am responsive and step up to help out. Why is this so unusual in medicine, where health is our supposed goal?

My husband and I also try to look out for each other. We are both going about 100 mph during an average day. It is essential for us to occasionally look at the other to evaluate for signs of near-collapse or exhaustion. At times like these, my husband may encourage me to head out to the gym or I may send him down to the basement to play video games. This is why my obligation to be at home one Wednesday evening a month while my husband goes out for his “guys’ dinner” is sacrosanct.

Very demanding roles — such as physician or mother — rarely are accompanied by other people looking out for your wellbeing. My kids love me but are inherently egocentric, as is the norm when you are young. My patients appreciate me (most of the time) but are appropriately focused on their own myriad needs instead of on their doctor’s. Therefore it is essential that colleagues or partners look out for each other. Check in with each other to see how things are going, protect each other from self-imposed craziness, and help each other to be healthy in the way they fulfill the demands of their roles.

No comments:

Post a Comment