Shadowing a Doctor

December 3, 2013

As a medical student, you will often hear a lot of suggestions about finding the right work-life balance. While there’s no arguing against this advice, the real truth is there is no one way or one technique that everybody can use to achieve the perfect work-life balance. Everyone is different and even with the same person, needs change over time as personal and work commitments progress and evolve.

Observing surgery on a Gap Medics Medical Work Experience placement in Tanzania First identify the obstacles that are stopping you from achieving this balance

As a first year medical student you may find yourself facing specific obstacles that may not be an issue as you progress through the year. However, those hindrances may be replaced with others. In the first year, adapting to a new learning environment, lack of time available to indulge in previously enjoyable non-medical activities can prove to be hugely overwhelming. As you move into the second year, it could be the persistent curricular stress and sleep deprivation that add to your existing stress. You may find yourself over-committing professionally, which leaves you even less time to relax or to even think of any social life.

Some or all of these factors can combine and stop you from achieving an optimum balance between your social life and medical studies.

Strategies for attaining the proper work-life balance

  • Spend time with family and friends – Good personal relationships act as an effective buffer and provide much-needed support when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Spend time doing something you love – Whether your passion lies in quilting, reading or fencing, make time to indulge in your favorite activity. It does not have to be every day but if you schedule it into your week at least once or twice, you will find that it has help you feel calmer and more relaxed. 
  • Learn to multi-task – If you love cycling, schedule your cycling around your trips to the grocery store. When you can, combine activities or chores that will help you save time that can be used for more pleasurable activities or to simply chill out and relax.
  • Find a mentor – Mentors play a huge role when it comes to helping med students find a balance. They have the experience and hindsight that can help you find your way out as you struggle through the many challenges you face on a daily basis. Just knowing how they coped or what they did differently can give you a fresh perspective on things. When you talk to  somebody successful who has overcome the same problems that you are facing, it gives you hope and encouragement.

Developing habits that will help you attain a life-work balance while you are a med student will help you greatly as you graduate from med school and start practicing. The best way to set achievable, realistic goals is by starting small and then gradually building on the strategies that are important and which work for you at your particular stage in life.