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The Balancing Act: How a Healthcare Professional can Juggle Job, Life

A healthcare professional's hours are long, and the stresses are many. It is important, above all else, to try to follow a structured schedule as much as possible.

Dr. Stanley Mathew - Balancing Act

Unlike so many in the healthcare industry — whether doctors or nurses — I consider myself a workafrolic, as opposed to a workaholic.

Please allow me to explain. A workafrolic loves his or her work as much as the workaholic, but revels in it in a way the workaholic does not. Where the workaholic is working just for working’s sake, the workafrolic derives joy from every task, every aspect of the job.

And that’s how I feel about my job as Medical Director at St. Luke’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. My specialty is physiatry — i.e., physical medicine and rehabilitation, which involves the non-surgical treatment of various musculoskeletal disorders — and I can attest to the fact that the profession is all-consuming.

Healthcare is not just a job; it’s a responsibility. It is well nigh impossible not to become personally involved with most, if not all, of your patients. Two who come to mind are the young man, just 17 years old, who came to us after getting hit by a bus and undergoing multiple surgeries, and the man who was left a paraplegic by a motorcycle accident.

There’s an investment on the part of the healthcare professional. You can’t just turn your feelings on and off. Nor would I want to. I was initially drawn to the profession to help people, and it is fulfilling to know that you have done so — that even when patients have moved on, you might receive a card in the mail and immediately be drawn back into their orbit, if only from afar. The connection with each of them is such that you become, in effect, friends for life.

So I will happily get to the hospital each day by 5:30 a.m.; if I arrive any later, I feel like I spend my entire day, which lasts until about 6:30 p.m., playing catch-up. And I will happily take calls at home. (Having an understanding wife means everything.)

I am a devotee of Grant Cardone, an entrepreneur who wears many other hats as well: consultant, trainer, author, commentator, speaker, consultant, entrepreneur, influencer, disruptor. He has 50 rules, for life and/or business, the first of which is this:

Success is your duty.

Growing up in Queens, the son of a bus driver and a nurse, I knew I wanted to help people, but didn’t know exactly how I wanted to go about doing it. At one point I settled on becoming an anesthesiologist, and headed off to study in Poland, in part because a friend was doing the same.

That certainly expanded my worldview (and for a time my language skills), though I came back to the States to finish my schooling, in Brooklyn. Physiatry was just something that kind of fell into my lap, and over time I found myself in Iowa, and in my current post.

In retrospect now I could say God was putting all the dots together. At the time it was just that I wanted to try this out, and I wanted to get away from home, be on my own and be the usual independent teenager.

At various points in his list of rules, Cardone extols the value of hard work, as shown in this video:

No matter how good your ideas are, no matter how good your art is or how good your skill set is, if you’re not vibrating at a frequency that people are saying, ‘My god, how does that guy do all that?’ … If you’re not working at that level, you’re not going to make it.

Which is why I’m in the office every morning. And why I routinely work 12-hour days.

Elsewhere in his list (and on the video), Cardone discusses putting oneself first — how his dreams are top of mind, first thing every day. As he put it, “If you don’t control your environment, somebody else will.”

In the healthcare world, that means trying to be at your best every day. Eating right, getting the proper rest and exercising. Of course, there is a Catch-22 on the latter score when it comes to healthcare workers, who are on their feet all day long. Exercise? They get plenty. Fair enough, but the overall premise remains: Practice healthy habits.

And while I do take work home with me — something healthcare workers are notorious for doing (and something that is oh-so-easy to do in the Information Age) — there are times you just need to step away. Put the email aside. Avoid the urge to check a work file. And just in general, limit screen time, especially late in the day, as it delays your body’s release of melatonin, which is vital to sleep.

Finally, it pays to tend to your relationships with your friends and family members. If that means scheduling regular meals or activities, so be it. But make time for those you love. Renee Dahring, a career coach, cautioned in a post on the website Bartonassociates.com that it is unwise to let work stress steal from one’s personal time, while Dave Mittman, creator of Clinician1, the largest online community for physicians assistants and nurse practitioners, was quoted on that same site as saying vacations are essential.

“Take some days off,” Mittman said, “and stop being a provider.”

Again, not the easiest thing to do.

It’s an intense profession, and an important one. It’s vital to give all you can to it, but no less vital to look after yourself.

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