By Nicole Ehnle, Business Development Associate
The Longevity Plan, written by Dr. John Day and Jane Ann Day, sets out seven lessons they learned from the many centenarians in Bapan, China, also known as Longevity Village. I believe some of these lessons can be easily paired with a life in medicine. After all,the author happens to be a cardiac surgeon and details many of the ways in which he uses the lessons he learned. So without further ado, here are a few tips clinicians can use to get closer than ever to perfect work-life balance (assuming it exists).
For most people, working less really is not an option. I mean, you have to make ends meet. But for physicians in particular and clinicians in general, working less may actually be financially feasible. All it takes is a willingness to live a little more modestly, purging the luxuries that you know you can live without.
In addition, clinicians in many specialties have some control over their work schedule, so they have the flexibility to set their own hours and take time off when they want (or need) to.
Side note: as a clinician-based staffing company, it is not necessarily in Keystone’s best interest to tell our medical professionals to work less. But we believe strongly in work-life balance for all of our people, and we practice what we preach. In emergency medicine this is especially important, since the trauma of providing emergency care can be mentally, physically and emotionally taxing.
Staying Active and Reducing Stress
By now, everyone knows you have to stay active to stay healthy. In fact, we talked about this not that long ago. Physicians who work in hospitals have an advantage: hospitals have lots of hallways to pace. Between rounds, or if the ED isn’t too busy (I know, many of you are laughing), use that time to move.
Dr. Day, during his hours in the hospital, sometimes has to hurry to another part of the hospital for an emergency situation. This can be stressful, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to move. Dr. Day realized that instead of seeing this as a stressor, he could use a pedometer to count the steps he was getting in at work each day. Now, he welcomes these interruptions and feels satisfied when he sees how many steps he took at the end of the day. By turning it into a kind of game with himself, he eliminated the stress of the situation and turned it into a positive experience.
Of course, working in a hospital is probably stressful no matter what your role is. You can’t eliminate codes and traumas, but you can practice techniques to reduce your stress response.
Focus on What Matters
It is easy to get carried away with work. We’ve all been there—seeing a fat paycheck at the end of the month is exciting and it can be hard to quit the rat race when it’s so financially rewarding. But there are so many other kinds of fulfillment in life: family, travel, health and even simple rest and relaxation. These are the reasons we work in the first place—to give us the ability to do the things we love.
Hospital-based clinicians are in a better position than some to downsize their work schedules. They can choose to be scheduled part time, and it is usually financially feasible to do so (as long as your student loans are paid off and you’re not weighed down with a huge mortgage or car payment you don’t need). That doesn’t mean it’s easy—it will require you to budget your money a little more diligently—but you’ll no longer have to budget your time for the things you truly love.
Dr. Day describes how he decided to make this a priority. He realized that the high stress of full time surgery was not doing him or his family any good, so he downsized his fast-paced surgery schedule and supplemented it with academic work. This was a difficult decision for him, as he also felt he needed to be there for his patients. But his choice has made his life a lot less stressful, which has allowed him to prioritize his health and his family, and has made him a better doctor for the patients he is able to serve.
Don’t Focus on More
While we’re on the topic of mortgages and car payments, try to remember that old adage that more is not always better. What is a bigger house or a nicer car compared to watching your child grow up, or visiting the Great Wall of China? Rather than spending your money on things, spend it on experiences. Things get old or go out of style; you will never fulfill your craving for things. But experiences give you a lifetime of memories and perspective on the world.
Wellness > Longevity
As a non-clinician, I have applied many of the lessons in The Longevity Plan in my own life. It has taught me to not only live a healthy lifestyle, but to find joy in every moment of life. Even in times of stress and exhaustion, we can find pleasure in little things. Sometimes even putting on a smile can make you feel better on a bad day. Apply some of these lessons in your life and you’ll feel so much better—increasing your longevity is just a bonus.
Editor’s Note: Keystone has seen the effects of working too many shifts. It is feasible and expected in an emergency situation, such as when a colleague has a family emergency, for example. However, to work excessively for months at a time alters one’s personality—like physicians snapping at nurses,patients and colleagues. This carries over to family life as well. I have experienced this personally, to the detriment of my family. I have also seen this in other doctors in our organization and colleagues in other specialties.Work-life balance is more essential than earning extra money to pay off student loans faster or get the newest sports car.