Holiday Gifts to Promote Physician Work-Life Balance

December 4, 2013
Jennifer Frank, MD

We all know the best things in life can't be purchased on Black Friday. That said, here are some great presents for doctors.

We all know the best things in life are those things that can't be purchased on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Hopefully, over the Thanksgiving holiday you were reminded of some of those things - good health and family, friends, plentiful material resources, a warm bed, a hug, and time away from the hectic pace of your everyday life. 

As Christmas approaches, and as we are in the last few nights of Hanukkah, here are some recommendations for gifts to help promote work-life balance. I've listed five items you can buy along with five things not available for purchase but which would likely be a welcome gift.

#1: The Gift of Humor

What you can buy: A personalized cartoon. This cartoon can help your favorite surgeon remember that work should be about fun and enjoyment. While our occupation is serious and often we deal with life-and-death decisions and situations, we also can laugh at work (at the right time) and can look for the fun moments.

What you can give:  A great joke. There's one available here, at my favorite website for medical themed comics.  Randy Glasbergen is seriously talented at finding the ironic and silly in medical practice.

#2:  The Gift of Coffee

What you can buy: A personalized doctor mug for the oh-so-necessary morning cup of coffee, available here. One of my psychiatrist colleagues recently informed me that caffeine is the best/safest drug in regards to risk-benefit profile. As a coffee enthusiast, I was quite pleased to hear that my morning addiction may be good for me!

What you can give: Take a colleague out for a cup of coffee. Honestly - when was the last time you took time to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee with a friend or colleague? It's good stuff - both the coffee (or tea or hot chocolate) and the companionship.

#3:  The Gift of Medical Expertise

What you can buy: Check out some baby scrubs for that infant in your life who already may be considering a career in medicine. Those of us with kids or teens in our lives may feel hard-pressed to enthusiastically recommend a career in medicine with all the years of schooling, long hours, reimbursement headaches, and uncertainties around healthcare reform. However, if you really stop to consider a career in medicine, you have to admit it's pretty great. We enjoy respect from our patients and colleagues, a healthy salary, even in primary care, and a tremendous ability to impact people’s lives. Very few other occupations can make that claim.

What you can give: Mentorship to a young person, colleague, or student. Take a minute and remember all the people along the way who shaped the doctor you are. It may have been a high school chemistry teacher, your own physician growing up, that special supervising resident, or a kind nurse who encouraged and taught you. Think about the impact they made and go do that for someone else.

#4:  The Gift of Time

What you can buy: a marble clock with a caduceus on it, available here. Every doctor could benefit from staying on time and a beautiful clock front and center can help remind us how far behind we already are at 9 in the morning. 

What you can give: time. Give an extra few minutes to the patient who just needs to talk to someone.  Give your spouse and family time that may be a sacrifice for you and be with them, watch a movie with them, or listen to them. 

#5: The Gift of Recognition

 What you can buy: a wooden award plaque, available here. An "official" award can help that doctor in your life feel appreciated for the long hours and hard work. He can gaze on it during moments that feel particularly trying or discouraging.

What you can give: appreciation. Let's face it - often the doctor is the one who gets the compliments, the thanks, the notes, and the gifts. We don't do it alone. We have nursing staff and administrative staff who work very hard to provide great care to our patients. Don't forget to share appreciation with them, to thank them for the work they do that allows you to do the work you do. Likewise, your family supports the work you do - do they know that? Have you thanked them for helping you to take care of patients? Share your appreciation with those around you this season - it's one of the most valuable gifts you can give.