The Demands of Running a Medical Practice Can Throw a Physician Off Balance

April 3, 2012

I’m still a doctor, which has never been and will never be a straight 9-to-5 job. Demands, like patients, are unpredictable and often non-negotiable.

Last week was a difficult week. As a result of a coding workshop, I changed my templates and documentation style to comply with new standards and recommendations. This led to something like an extra five or six hours of charting. This time came out of dinnertime, bedtime, and evening time.  Needless to say, I was unhappy, my husband was unhappy, and the kids were unhappy.

Still struggling with a growing pile of charts on Friday afternoon, I had mixed emotions when the labor deck called me at the end of the day to let me know I had a patient who came for a labor evaluation. Friday night charting blended into Friday night on the labor deck which morphed into Saturday on the labor deck after a second patient in labor came in at 3 a.m. 

By the time I got home from the hospital, I was exhausted, my husband was stressed, and we only had a couple of hours to get ready for my daughter’s birthday party sleepover. 

My husband and I had words throughout the weekend all centering around the theme of me not being at home when I was supposed to be and me shooting back that I was doing my job and I couldn’t control the needs of my patients. Most unsatisfying for both of us.

In a moment of fatigue and emotional exhaustion, I decided I would just quit doing OB. That would solve the unexpected phone calls beckoning me to the hospital at the most seemingly inconvenient times.  My husband would be happy and life would be great. Right?

Then I remembered that I changed jobs already to try to improve work-life balance. And, it has. My work-life balance is much better in my new position. But I’m still a doctor, which has never been and will never be a straight 9-to-5 job. Demands, like patients, are unpredictable and often non-negotiable. 

So, I decided not to quit doing OB - something I usually love and only sometimes dread.   Instead I decided to accept a few truths.  My husband and I will have conflict about the demands of my job because my job is demanding and because sometimes, my work has to come before my family.  Stopping my OB practice is not going to change this fact. I also realized that I can cut corners sometimes. For example, I don’t have to try to make every chart look like a perfect example of the ultimate in coding compliance. 

This experience also reminded me that I will never arrive at perfect work-life balance. My husband and I decided that there are better ways for me to communicate when I will be arriving home late and came up with a workable solution. This is one of many conversations we’ll need to continue to have in order to keep our family and our relationship smoothly running. 

So, in an attempt to avoid doing the same thing I’ve always done and expect a different result, I am going to accept the inherent messiness that is my life without making a rash decision about how to make it perfect.

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