Work-Life Balance Won't Save YouMay 09, 2023
How women physicians can advocate for work-life harmony in medicine.
Written by Dr. Linda Lawrence MD, CPE, ACC, BCC, FACEP - founder of People Always Healthcare Consulting and Co-founder of Revitalize Women Physician Circle.
At Revitalize, we’ve heard so many women physicians talk about finding work-life balance. And we get it. As women physicians, we often find ourselves pulled in different directions, trying to juggle the demands of our professional and personal lives. But the truth is, balance is not a realistic or sustainable goal. Instead, we should strive for work-life harmony.
What is work-life harmony? It's the idea that our personal and professional lives are interconnected and should complement each other, rather than compete against each other. It's about finding a way to integrate our work and our personal lives so that we can be our best selves in both areas.
So how do we set the foundation for work-life harmony? Below are several ways you can get started on your harmony journey.
Achieving work-life harmony requires a shift in mindset. Instead of trying to compartmentalize our lives, we need to recognize that we are whole people with multiple roles and responsibilities. We need to prioritize self-care and understand that taking care of ourselves is essential to our ability to care for others.
This is a lesson that took me a long time to learn. Early in my career, as a young mom and physician, I was always putting pressure on myself to balance where I allocated my time. It was hard to escape the mindset that in order to be “successful” as both a mom and a physician I needed to serve “x” amount of hours here and “y” amount of hours there. In reality, my value came from being able to do my job well both at work and at home. In order to do my jobs well I needed to feel trusted, respected and supported to decide for myself where I needed to spend my time. Feeling that I had the trust at work to say “I need to focus on my family right now” and the support at home to say “I need to put more time into my work right now” gave me the opportunity to thrive in both spaces.
This will look different for everyone, but shifting your mindset to prioritize your needs and boundaries is the best place to start.
Creating a culture of work-life harmony starts with valuing the whole person. Employers need to recognize that when employees feel supported and valued in their personal lives, they are more engaged and productive at work. As women physicians, we understand the value of respect and the challenges that come with achieving it. While respect may seem like a simple concept, it encompasses so much more than just individual actions and behaviors. Respect is about creating a culture and system that supports and values the work we do and the talents we bring.
Unfortunately, many of us have experienced bias, discrimination, harassment, and even assault in our workplaces. These experiences make it difficult for us to feel truly respected and appreciated. And even though we were hailed as heroes during the pandemic, it is disappointing to see that our healthcare system still does not demonstrate respect to physicians in our day-to-day work.
However, we believe that women physicians can be the catalyst for change. By working together, we can push for cultural and systemic changes that prioritize respect and create an environment where we can speak up and be heard.
I suggest joining (or creating) groups and organizations that fight for the changes you want to see in healthcare. For me earlier in my career, that was American College of Emergency Physicians. Now, my passion is in my coaching groups and Revitalize Women Physician Circle.
Advocating for work-life harmony as an individual and a collective. As women physicians, we need to support each other in our personal and professional lives, recognizing that we are all facing similar challenges. We need to speak up when we see policies or practices that are not conducive to work-life harmony, and we need to work together to create change.
This is why Dr. Andrea Austin and I founded Revitalize. We are a circle for women physicians, a trusted circle. A community of women physicians, offering courage and clarity to create growth in yourself and the overall system. You can read more about our mission and vision here.
Finally, achieving work-life harmony requires a commitment to self-care. We need to prioritize our own well-being and make time for the things that bring us joy and fulfillment outside of work. This means setting boundaries, saying no to things that don't serve us, and making time for rest and relaxation.
In conclusion, work-life harmony is about finding a way to integrate our personal and professional lives in a way that allows us to be our best selves. It requires a shift in mindset and a commitment to self-care, as well as support from employers and colleagues. As women physicians, we have the power to create a culture of work-life harmony that benefits us all. Let's embrace this idea and work together to make it a reality.
**This blog post was inspired by a recent conversation between Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Austin and Dr. River on The Revitalizing Doctor Podcast. Listen to the full episode “Revitalizing Medicine through Authenticity, Respect & Work-Life Harmony” wherever you stream.