Women’s Leadership Series

By Gina Charles, DO

I am often asked how I manage all the moving parts and responsibilities of being a wife, mother, physician and entrepreneur. But—like many working moms—I am forced to be a multitasker, which can affect my work and personal life.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, “work-life balance” is defined as “the amount of time a person spends doing their job compared to the time they spend with their family and doing the things they enjoy.” Some argue that, as a physician, it is impossible to find work-life balance, due to being inundated with electronic medical records, charting after work and fulfilling countless administrative duties. I have experienced all of this, which led me to make some changes in my life.

When speaking with other women physicians, most feel that a healthy work-life balance is something that eludes most of us because of the struggle between home and work obligations. This is why I believe physicians should strive for a healthy state of wellbeing, as opposed to achieving work-life balance. We should find solutions for maintaining a healthy balance between the two so that we can be of service to ourselves and to others, especially during these daunting times.

And, while I can admit that the demands of medicine alone can leave one feeling overwhelmed and overworked, I have managed to create a personal work-life system to support my jam-packed lifestyle.

Here are a few tips that I have found useful for improving wellbeing/work-life balance in medicine:

Ensure home needs are met by delegating. Solicit help from a housekeeper or nanny/babysitter and share responsibilities with others in the home. Or you can outsource services for tasks, including grocery shopping, laundry and meal prepping/takeout. Getting help with responsibilities frees up time in our day.

Plan out family time. I typically carve out time for long family activities on non-working days. This includes anything from apple picking to watching TV together on the sofa. When it comes to family, the goal is to be present so I can give them my undivided attention.

Reduce the administrative burden. A recent study found most physicians reported bringing work home—adding to overall work dissatisfaction and burnout. To combat this, use templates, scribes and dictation devices to assist with charting, take breaks during the workday, and, if possible, negotiate a flexible work schedule. When I come home and all my charts are completed, I feel like I just won a game of bowling—a sweet victory.

Garner support. Join a support group for women physicians, get a physician mentor, enlist in mindset coaching or enroll in a resilience program aimed at teaching physicians how to bounce back from stressful circumstances and effectively communicate with members of their team.

Prioritize self-care and wellness. It is no secret that our productivity is linked to how well we feel physically, mentally and spiritually. Like we recommend to our patients, we should maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get an adequate amount of sleep, pick up a hobby and practice mindfulness activities, such as meditation. We encourage our patients to prioritize their health and wellness, so we should take our own advice.

When it comes to work-life balance for physicians, achieving it can be difficult. The goal is to recognize areas in our lives that need fine-tuning and develop solutions to effectively address them, thereby improving physician well-being. Although there will likely be unique challenges along the way, give yourself some grace, and remember to make yourself a priority, so you can be of service to others.

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