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4 Factors Affecting The Work-Life Balance Of A Doctor

Kristen Campbell
Jun. 14, 2022
5-minute read


Becoming a doctor in Canada is no easy feat. Top physician specialties are competitive, grueling, and heavy on the pocket, and it takes a significant amount of time and resources to earn your M.D or D.O. Since you’re making such a big investment of both money and time, you want to ensure that the career that lies ahead offers a work-life balance that fits your goals.

As of 2019, there are more than eighty six thousand active physicians in Canada. Over half of these physicians (52%) are family doctors, and 48% are specialists. Factors like location, demand, and salary can impact a physician’s job overall, but the hours, stress, and expectation for work-life balance can be what makes or breaks your choice of career.

Students, interns, and residents — especially those starting their career in the middle of a global pandemic — can easily feel overwhelmed by all of the decisions ahead of them. While the right choice is something no one can make but you, there are some factors that can give you a better idea. When trying to find out which areas are the happiest medical specialties, considering the following factors will ensure a good work-life balance. Here are 4 of the biggest factors we’ve found that impact the work-life balance of doctors:

Personality Alignment

How well you perform at any job is directly proportional to how well the duties of the role suit your personality, your strengths, and your passion. Your personality plays a crucial role in the selection of the best medical specialty for you.

The Internet offers plenty of quizzes to help you find your perfect match, and while not all of them are totally reliable, they are a good place to start. Finding a specialty complimentary to your personality can have a direct impact on the quality of service you provide your patients, as well as your overall happiness as a doctor.

You should take the time to explore your interests, like analyzing the courses you’ve enjoyed in school or the type of work you’re comfortable with (i.e. emergency, surgery, etc.) to help choose a speciality that best suits your personality.

The Financial Aspect

A healthy bank balance is a major part of job satisfaction — and so is being able to pay back your student loans. Doctor specialties that pay well can determine the quality of your overall lifestyle, so the financial aspect of choosing a speciality is worth considering.

However, it’s important to note that just because a specialty offers good monetary benefits, it doesn’t promise great emotional and physical well-being. For example, anesthesiologists and surgeons get paid more compared to family physicians. However, the latter typically work less hours compared to the former.

Research on physicians suggests a disconnect between the ‘internal rewards’ doctors are seeking and the monetary rewards it offers. In one study, almost half of doctors would take reduced hours over $20,000 of their salary. While a big paycheque may be appealing, if you have no interest in the specialty behind it, it’s probably not a great fit.

Even if a particular specialty promises financial stability, it does not guarantee you’ll be happy at work. Similarly, a specialty that traditionally does offer a lot of flexibility with your hours won’t be satisfying if your interests lie elsewhere.

The Skill Of Balancing

While being a doctor is a busy job, there are a few specialties known to offer a good work-life balance. The best ones normally include regular working hours, time for a healthy social life, and good compensation.

Pathology, dermatology, and family medicine fall into these categories, often considered to be relatively less stressful than the other doctor specialties. However, although family doctors are often considered the best medical specialty for work life balance, their role on the ‘front lines’ of the Canadian medical system can sometimes point to burnout — especially during crises situations like a pandemic.

The Long-Term Plan

Before picking a specialty, you must know what your future goals are and what you’re working towards. Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years? How about 20? How do you anticipate your specialty, and medicine as a whole, will change? Where do you see yourself on that curve?

Choosing and sticking with a doctor specialty in the long-haul, demands commitment and dedication. It’s crucial that your vision for your future is aligned with the specialty that you’ve chosen, and long-term job satisfaction will come when you keep adapting to the curve.

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