Coping with the Stresses of Becoming/Being a Physician

Coping with StressBeing a physician is just as demanding as training to become a physician. Doctoring is more than a job – it is a lifestyle. You are a leader in your community merely as a result of your job choice. Everyone knows who you are and instantly associates you with intelligence, accomplishment, and achievement. It is a demanding role with great responsibility. It is joyous and yet a constant duty that does not allow temporary escape. Along with this, there is a great sense of obligation, long hours, and lack of break time, which often requires careful coping on the part of the physician.

What does this careful coping include? How do some physicians handle all the several aspects of the demands skillfully and with grace and manage to have a successful personal life along with a stable career? We will begin with a few tips on coping with being a leader in medicine and later bring information from successful physicians  to you on how they have successfully balanced their lives with medical practice.

First and foremost is Latitude in Attitude. Physicians expect the best from themselves and never anticipate failing or making mistakes. Know that you are human and that humans make errors. You do the best you can but that you too will make mistakes. Try not to be so hard on yourself and when you make a mistake, forgive yourself. It is ok that you are not perfect, that you do not know the answer to every question, or are able to help every patient, or able to score in the top 15% of your class. Don’t let your errors paralyze you or depress you. Just learn from them and move on.

Finding time for Caring For Your “Self” is the second major coping strategy we all say but do not do. We prescribe this to all of our patients, but do physicians do it for themselves? Or do medical students do it for themselves? Finding time for exercise, meditation, spending time with loved ones, and spirituality is essential to happiness and fulfillment. You have to work at making time. It is not easy, but it is the first step in being a true professional. Setting boundaries so that you have personal time to prevent burnout is essential for successful coping. If you cannot do this, then hire a professional coach to help you figure out how to manage to advocate for this with your employer or fit it into your life.

Look at as your work as Having a Higher Purpose Each Day. You don’t have to have strong religious associations to know and appreciate that what you do each day has a meaningful, long-lasting effect on the quality of life of those that you treat. You are so important to so many people. Having an investment in the welfare of your community is momentous and is only reached essentially by treating one patient at a time. Perhaps physicians lose sight of how essential their work is when they are immersed in it each and every day. Giving your life over to help the public when they in a weakened or frail state or helping to find a remedy for an illness that is impinging upon the quality of life of his or her community, is definitely serving a higher purpose. Your duties require diligence, sacrifice, and commitment. Not each and every person recognizes this but most do. Know that what you do makes your community a better, safer place and could not exist nor flourish without your caring dedication.

These are just a few suggestions for coping. Please return to the blog for additional suggestions in the near future and to hear from physicians and their personal experiences in balancing school, life and the practice of medicine.

Here are some links to websites on coping:

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