Section: Residency Education Category: Life Skills

Achieving a Balance Between Work and Life

Suhad Hadi, DPM

**** This lecture is not available for CME ****

  • Author
  • Suhad Hadi, DPM

    Louis Stokes Veterans Administration
    Akron Community Based Outpatient Clinic
    Akron, OH

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    Suhad Hadi has nothing to disclose.

  • Lecture Transcript
  • Okay. So, we’re going to try to pick up and buy some time here. I’m Suhad Hadi. I worked at the VA Puget Sound, Seattle Washington. We’re going to talk a little bit about some ways to achieve a balance between work and life. Even as residents, those of you who have a family component realize how hard it could be juggling all of those factors. So, what is balance in life? Satisfaction on inclusive life, 50/50 balances to rose color and glasses perspective on how everything should be and having it all. The reality of it really is that it’s a false dichotomy. And dealing the best way to have balance is to realize that sometimes you’re going to be out of balance. And to make of the best of those moments and try to keep the scale tipped in your favor as often as you can. I don’t want to sound negative because I have two children, husband. My husband is a podiatrist. And I tend to think we have a very fairly balanced life. So, it is definitely impossible. There is a study out of the University of Washington, School of Medicine that actually came up with a list of 10 items that really demonstrated families that were content in both their work life and their family life and balancing them together. So we’re going to kind of go through the first five which I feel are really important and then we’ll kind of briefly go through the last five. The most important aspect they’ve found was assessing your life. Being honest with what you want, being honest with your significant other and your family as to where you feel your work demands fit into your life demands. And doing what you feel is going to make you satisfy. And really trying to find the goals between work and home and trying to accomplish them both. But aside from assessing your life, it was really recommended that the folks who reassess their life regularly were even more successful at doing that and finding that balance. And it’s actually recommended that once a year, whether you do it as part of your New Year’s resolutions, if you do it as part of your birthday to really sit down and focus to see where you’re at. It’s only this way that you’re going to be proactive in both your work and your life and helping find that balance between the two. And avoiding crisis situations where things really that come up spontaneously you can’t manage. But if you kind of have all the factors in place and you’ve been reassessing as you go along, these people tend to handle those situations a lot better. So what’s also been found is that the medical profession is notorious for delayed gratification. It’s not just physicians but nurses, physical therapists. A lot of it has to do with the extent of schooling we go through. So, with schooling, we tend to say, I’ll wait after my undergrad. Or I’ll wait after Podiatry School. Or I’ll wait to do this after residency. Or I’ll wait until I work for a few years and have some experience behind me and some money and then I’ll do this. So, we’re notorious for that, the psychology of postponement. The happiest families that they found, the ones who have that balance learn to stay in the present even though they anticipate for the future. But if you’re always anticipating for the future, it’s a lot harder to find that. Those components that make you happy, the vacation or things that allow you time with your family and balancing your work as well. And it’s hard because like the last point says, it’s a change in mindset and work style. So, and that’s again finding that balance and being able to incorporate time in your work to devote to your family and vice versa. If you’re taking a call, your family understands that week that you’re on call. That’s your work commitment. But when you’re not on call or something, you make the most of the time on the flip side. This one I like, our residents out there so I don’t condone standing at the coffee machine, staring out the window. But I have colleagues that walk into the office, never leave the room that they’re in, the patient care room. You never see them and they’re kind of miserable sometimes at work because they never step outside of just focusing on the everyday work schedule. But they found that the number one factor productive people at work will have this balance at the workplace or actually people who take time to take a break everyday. I actually come into the office. I don’t go straight to my office and sit down at the computer like many people are doing, open up and start seeing what my emails are, what my alerts are on the computer or anything like that. I actually walk around. See how the front office staff is doing. I ask the nurses how they’re doing, are there any issues. And then, I go sit in my office and see what I need to catch up on before patients come in. And you know, many of us who works through lunch, I don’t believe there’s such thing as a working lunch. You’re either out lunch or you’re working. But if I’m running behind with patients and I really don’t get a lunch, I do take about 10 minutes between that time and the next patient to at least step aside.

    [05:03] To let myself kind of unwind a little bit before I restart. Otherwise, work becomes grueling and you kind of really start to get a little bit frustrated with that. But it’s important to know that the improved productivity of people who take a break are actually more successful in their workplace. Care for yourself because proponent of me-time is me. So, I’ve been using that phrase since before I married my husband. And I think you need to have it like I said I work with the breaks and as well as at home. It’s great to make sure you devote time to your family but you need to devote time to yourself and that includes make sure you’re getting enough sleep, make sure you exercise, make sure you relax. I challenge myself once a year. I mean, I definitely don’t look like the athlete but I challenge myself once a year and I give myself a goal. I run a marathon. I do half-marathons. I did a sprint triathlon last year. So, just something that keeps you physically motivated that’s specifically for you. I also bake a lot. So, find something that is kind of your outlet when you’re not at work. The other five factors, keeping physicians visits were also in the medical profession most notorious for not keeping ourselves in terms of annual exams up to date or not. Keep friends, family and even counselors close by. Mentors, everyone should have a mentor. You should have that one person who is in your profession, I think, that you can go to, to confide in who hopefully has gone through some things and can help guide you. Workplace assessment, I think a lot of times, you go to work and you just assume this is work. This is how it’s going to be. But you have to reassess. You have to work smart not hard. You have to realize if there’s things, components of your job that you can actually delegate to help lighten your loads so that you’re not overburdened by work everyday. Reality of it is we spend more time at work sometimes than we spend at home. So, you have to work to make that a pleasant environment for yourself and not one where you’re constantly feeling overloaded or overwhelmed. So, it’s definitely a juggling act. A few extra tips, establish limits and boundaries. Learn to say no. I see people who take on every task that’s thrown at them, I think that’s great. I think there’s a place for it. But I think there’s also a time to say no to things when you’re feeling a little overburdened and deadlines are starting to really creep up on you. Set your own standards. Be flexible. If family is involved then you want to and you’re working, find reliable child care. I tell people, I used to crinched when patients would ask me, what do you with your children when you’re at work. And I would say daycare. And they would apologize for me. I’m sorry, you have to put them in daycare. And I thought, that was a conscious decision for me and my husband. And we found a great daycare that we love. And we don’t feel bad about it. My kids enjoy going there. They look forward to seeing their friends at school. They have structure. So, if it feels right for you, that’s I think the most important part. Quality family time. Like I said, we spend a lot of time at work. My kids spend a lot of time at daycare. When we’re at home, it’s all about family. Like I said, my husband is a podiatrist. There is not shock talk at home unless we have to get something off our chest. So it’s all about the kids and all about us on the weekends and the time we’re not on call. So just some tips on the family end as opposed to the work end, and how to be a happy family. This is actually a study and I didn’t publish it but it was outside of Columbia. Create traditions at our house, Friday nights, pizza night and my four-year-old gets to stay up as late as he wants till he falls asleep on the floor. That’s a big thing for him. He looks forward to Friday nights. I have a colleague, his family, they celebrate half-birthday because their kids are disappointed that one of their birthdays falls at Christmas so they never get to have their birthday at school. And one falls in the summer so they never get to have their birthday at school. So their mum celebrates their half-birthdays and allows them to celebrate that. So, any traditions you can create that your kids will carry on that kind of make them feel like this is something only for our family. It’s a great thing to do. Clean up as a clan. My kids think cleaning is a family project. If they’re cleaning up their playroom and I’m in the computer room doing something, they come to remind me that I’m supposed to be helping. So, it’s a family affair. Nurture spiritual side, whatever your religious cultural faith, beliefs are. I really believe that this is a guide to life when you nurture something like that. And it kind of helps guide your children and give them a focus and purpose. Enhance one another’s ego. There’s nothing better than when my two-year-old has learned to come tell me, good job mom, you did a good job picking that. So, it’s nice. And, you know, we’re constantly hearing people encourage their kids but it’s nice when you realize that your children have picked up the importance that. And they’re going to carry that most likely into their school friends and their future, any social interactions they have.

    [10:06] Hand up the hugs. Family hug is a big thing for us if somebody’s upset or angry in the family. Even my kids will say, time for a family hug. We all get together and have a hug. I can’t underestimate the power of that especially with the children. Look for laughter. Learn to laugh at yourself as well. It makes kids accept things that go wrong. You get into the game. If there’s a sport you enjoy, bike-riding, swimming, walking, running, at their appropriate age, get your kids involved and see if they enjoy that sport as well. The last one is a big thing one for me. Rally around the table. When I married my husband, I told him the one thing we were always going to do is have one meal at the table at home and he thought I was crazy. But we still carry that on today. Dinners are big time at home ’cause morning is crazy at our house. Lunch were all away. But there was a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse that kids from families who dine together frequently are 31% less likely to smoke, drink or do drugs later on as teenagers. So, I always have that growing up and I loved it. I feel like right now, even at four years old, my son will tell me about his day at school and what friend bugged him and what friend didn’t. And I hope that that continues as they get older where they’ll be comfortable talking to us. There’s also a study that asks what residents what nowadays. And it’s very different from before where a lot of people were really gung-ho about focusing on a career and their job. Residents today, if they wrote their top 10 things down that they wanted, on the list was more control of their work schedule. Residents looking for jobs now wanting to be able to know that they have more time with their families. They want less time on call. They want part-time alternatives and they want flexibility. This is kind of I think the reality of where we at seeing family time and work time being separated. And I talked about part-time alternatives because I did it. When I have my first son, we lived nowhere near family. And I had no idea what it’s going to be like raising a child. And so, I went to work part-time after my first son. When I had my second son, we lived at home in San Antonio where my husband is from. And we had his two sisters so I actually remained full-time because his sisters were stay home and they were able to help us out more. So, be flexible. Figure out what’s appropriate for you based on where you’re at with your work career and your family at any given time. And when you look for your jobs, make sure that some of those opportunities would be available to you if those are things that you’re going to be looking for. Leo Tolstoy said, happy families are all alike. There’s actually a lot of literature and articles out there about that, how happy families are content families. And being content in the workplace actually shares some of the same characteristics we just discussed in this talk. So, it’s definitely hard. It’s a juggling act. The scale is not always 50/50 in terms of having a balanced life. But the goal I think is to keep it tipped more on your favor than not. So, hopefully, I bought you guys some time. Alright, thank you guys and thanks for sticking around for Sunday. And this has been a wonderful conference. Thanks