Ending Physician Burnout Global Summit

Ending Physician Burnout Global Summit

Source: O’Shea M. Stress, burnout and parenting: Finding balance and calm. Presented at: Ending physician burnout global summit. Aug. 24-26, 2021 (virtual meeting).


Disclosures: Healio Primary Care could not confirm O’Shea’s relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.
August 26, 2021
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Five strategies for health care workers to achieve work-home life balance

Source: O’Shea M. Stress, burnout and parenting: Finding balance and calm. Presented at: Ending physician burnout global summit. Aug. 24-26, 2021 (virtual meeting).


Disclosures: Healio Primary Care could not confirm O’Shea’s relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.
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The struggle to balance a career in medicine and a family life is very real, but there are effective strategies to achieve an equilibrium, a speaker at the Ending Physician Burnout Global Summit said.

During a virtual presentation, Molly O’Shea, MD, a pediatrician at Birmingham Pediatrics & Wellness Center in Michigan, said job responsibilities in combination with the “really tough stuff at home that make it hard to be a parent” can create long-term challenges.

Female health care professional sittinng outside
A speaker said that physicians who find time to do something for themselves, such as drinking a cup of coffee in solitude, can help them achieve a better work-life balance.
Photo source: Adobe Stock

“It’s no surprise to me that working in medicine [and] being a parent is potentially a recipe for burnout because of all of the demands that are placed on us over the course of time,” she said.

A previously published survey indicated that among physicians (n = 7,288) and their employed partners (n = 891), 44.3% of the physicians and 55.7% of the partners reported a work-home conflict within the past 3 weeks. Physicians and their partners who had experienced a recent work-home conflict were more likely to have symptoms of burnout, results showed.

Utilize ‘emotional regulation’

O’Shea called her first strategy to balancing home and professional lives “emotional regulation.” This is the realization that whatever a child did that upsets you — such as their performance in school, home or sports and interactions with others — is not about you, she said.

“Kids’ behavior, their decisions, the things they are saying to you, has absolutely nothing to do with you,” she said.

When a child makes an unpleasant outburst, O’Shea encouraged parents to ask themselves what their child may need, rather than how it reflects on the parent. This will change feelings of guilt to feelings of knowing the parent did the best job possible to manage their child’s situation, according to O’Shea.

Molly O'Shea

“By switching that lens around a little bit and allowing yourself to separate enough to have that emotional regulation for yourself, you will be much calmer,” she said. “That will help tremendously in your feelings about the household at the end of the day.”

Establish structure and routine

Another strategy — planning activities with children and sticking to them — is critical to maintaining balance and calm while juggling a family and a career in medicine, O’Shea said. This can be something as simple as reading to children every night.

Children will benefit from this behavior in numerous ways, according to O’Shea.

“Predictability provides security,” she said. “It [also] gives your kids a message that you really care about them.”

Do something for you

The third strategy is just as important, O’Shea said: planning daily activities for yourself and for your own benefit.

“Find 15 minutes a day to do something for yourself,” she said. Examples of this include listening to a podcast before going home, getting a cup of coffee and drinking it in solitude or waking up before the rest of family and taking a brief walk.

“Find that time,” O’Shea said. “Your kids will be fine, and you will be better. By getting that recovery time in by filling your own tank in some way, you will be a much better parent and a better partner to your spouse.”

Ask for help

There is no rule that says homeowners must do all the work involved with the house’s upkeep and the family’s well-being, O’Shea said.

She encouraged physicians to utilize her fourth strategy: taking advantage of time-savers like meal preparation services, landscaping companies, grocery delivery and professional housekeepers. Doing so will allow “you to meaningfully connect with your partner every day,” according to O’Shea.

“It is important to have this meaningful connection with your partner,” she said. “A parenting coach can be super valuable if you are struggling with switching your mindset, getting a handle on your schedule and how to separate emotionally in a way that creates that healthy environment.”

Explore ways to grow, renew and change at work

A medical school degree does not necessarily mean one has to be a medical professional for life, O’Shea said, discussing her fifth strategy: seeking new opportunities to grow, renew and change.

“Just because you're a doctor or a nurse doesn't mean you have to stay a doctor or nurse,” she said. “Or if you're working in an environment where you are not feeling it anymore, then grow, find a new passion, find somewhere else to be, find an identity outside of work.”

She said this may mean joining a professional society or a work committee, changing a mindset about work or stepping outside of a comfort zone.

“Create opportunities instead of creating catastrophes,” O’Shea said. “Talk to your supervisors, ask for change and explore new options.”

Do what it takes to ‘get there’

O’Shea acknowledged that many physicians likely feel distracted or detached from their spouses and families, leaving them feeling unsympathetic, unempathetic or on autopilot. For health care professionals in these situations, the approaches to maintaining a balance that she described can be a challenge. However, the ends justify the means.

“Finding balance and calm is hard,” O’Shea said. “But it's not as hard or as uncomfortable as living in that space that you're in if you're feeling that way most of the time. There are a few things you can do to get there. The most critical step for any parent is to realize this.”

References:

Dyrbye LN, et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2014;doi:10.1007/s11606-013-2581.3.

O’Shea M. Stress, burnout and parenting: Finding balance and calm. Presented at: Ending physician burnout global summit. Aug. 24-26, 2021 (virtual meeting).