Post was originally published December 2020, and has since been updated.
While many medical professionals take time off around the holidays, sometimes you need to stay on the job. No matter the season, patients don’t stop needing care—and this year poses additional challenges with COVID, influenza and RSV converging to add strain to an already-strained system.
So how can you still manage to find some balance over the holidays? Here are some tips for getting through without missing out:
1. Prioritize Your Schedule
Many doctors are fortunate enough to either choose which holidays they work or collaborate with other doctors to ensure coverage. Physicians with young children may request Christmas off, but volunteer to work New Years, for instance. Prioritizing which holidays you work can help you make time for the celebrations you enjoy most.
The same advice that applies to your work schedule can apply to your personal schedule as well. From hosting and attending gatherings to gift-giving and volunteering, it’s easy to become stretched too thin at both work and home at this time of year. Prioritize your commitments and check in to see if your family and friends can work around your schedule for holiday celebrations.
2. Make the Most of Your Time Off
Even if you don’t have a whole week or more away from work, make a conscious decision to enjoy the time you do have. Industry studies on mindfulness-based interventions in medical practice show positive results for improving both doctor burnout and wellbeing on the job. Bringing these same mindfulness practices home for the holidays is a great way to stay present and fully enjoy the time you have to celebrate.
Another tip? Think small. Breakfast with a friend on your day off gives you the remainder of the day to yourself while still keeping you connected. Sneaking in a “micro vacation” (a short, often spontaneous trip that doesn’t require extensive planning) can give you the reset you need when time off is limited. If you only have a single day off, but many personal to-dos to accomplish, carving out time for just one thing you want to do—instead of have to do—can still make you feel like you got a break.
3. Focus on the Work
Yes, this sounds counter-intuitive. However, for many doctors, medicine is a calling—and the positive impact you make is the biggest reward. Patients are oftentimes all the more grateful to receive the care they need over the holidays when fewer resources are available. It can be uplifting to remind yourself of the incredible difference you’re making.
As with most things, moderation is key. “Brightsiding” is helpful when authentic and detrimental when contrived. If you’re finding it hard to find the reward in your work or depersonalizing medicine, those are telltale signs of burnout that should be addressed. When the struggle to balance work and life extends beyond the holidays, it may be time to implement some changes.
4. Spend Time with your Medical Family
One of the perks of being a doctor is the teamwork and camaraderie between physicians and other staff members. This can be a good opportunity to connect with your “hospital family” and get in some holiday cheer even when you’re not at home.
Go ahead and bring some food or home baking to share, attend the holiday lunch, wear an ugly sweater or participate in gift exchanges. New connections can be formed simply by asking a colleague about their traditions and plans for the holidays, and you might be surprised by the joy this brings.
5. Set Daily Hours for Follow Up
Even if you don’t officially have to work over the holidays, many physicians still receive labs and other follow up tasks that can’t wait. Don’t let your work snowball. Physicians could always be catching up on billing, forms, new treatments and so much more. Before you know it, your days off can become days on.
To combat this, set hard boundaries for yourself on your time off and stick to them. Try scheduling a short amount of time daily (E.G. 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.) to handle only the most necessary duties and then get back to your personal priorities.
Can Dr.Bill Help You Achieve Better Balance?
Achieving a comfortable work/life balance can be more difficult during the holidays, however, it’s usually attainable when you make your needs a priority (a challenge for many physicians!).
While Dr.Bill can’t address many of the contributors to physician burnout, we work hard on the part we can control: making the aministrative job of billing faster, easier and more accurate. Contact us if you have questions or would like a 15-minute walkthrough of our platform.