Perhaps more so than any other profession, doctors are held to a high standard of not only performance, but also availability. Understandably, patients expect their physicians to be there when they or their loved ones aren’t feeling their best. The unpredictability of illness and accident make it nearly impossible to know when a doctor’s skills and expertise will be needed. But making yourself available 24/7 isn’t a viable option. After all, doctors have lives outside of the office too, complete with families, hobbies, and a need for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.
Even with time set aside for a life beyond the office, doctors face significant levels of stress. A study of Dutch medical specialists found that the interference of work on home life and not being able to live up to one’s professional standards were leading causes of stress among doctors. A review of 18 studies also cemented what has long been suspected: a physician’s well-being contributes to better patient care and satisfaction. Additionally, work-life balance is a major concern among female doctors, and has led to choosing disciplines with a perceived better balance, rather than a preferred field.
Discovering ways that allow a physician to not only have personal time but still be able to care for patients is paramount. There are many potential ways to achieve this goal. One such avenue is the use of a medical answering service. Services like this allow physicians to turn over communication to a professional service who then takes messages and determines if the doctor is needed right away. In this manner, a doctor can know that their patients are being watched over, and that they will be contacted when needed.
Another approach is to set expectations. It’s unavoidable—some patients want more of your time than is sometimes needed and often not available. Setting clear expectations with clients allows a physician to maintain a set schedule of professional time while still having personal time. Of course, emergencies arise and some flexibility is needed, but being at the beck and call of clients at any time, day or night, ultimately will lead to burnout, and to potentially harmful consequences to those you’re trying to help.
Medical professionals serve a noble calling. Healing others is an important service, but keep in mind the old saying, “Physician, heal thyself.” You’re no good to anyone if your health suffers, or if you’re so burnt out on it all that you just can’t give the kind of care you want to. Using a medical answering service and setting expectations up front are two ways you can continue to be the best doctor possible.