A Little Peace for Physicians in Transitioning Between Work and Home

March 13, 2012
Jennifer Frank, MD

I think of how much easier my own personal-professional balance would be if I wasn’t zinging from one thing to the next but rather gently transitioning.

This morning in yoga class, my teacher invited us to complete a peaceful re-entry back into our day after spending 60 minutes being meditative and presumably focused on our practice. The idea of peaceful re-entry has been drifting around my brain ever since.

Last week, I was at a conference in Florida. It was held at a beautiful resort and I was by myself. This allowed me to stroll the beach, eat a leisurely dinner, and sleep through the night. None of these activities is part of my usual daily experience. While I missed my family, it was a difficult transition from carefree traveler to in-demand mom. The moment my suitcase hit the entryway tile floor, I was back on - available to referee fights, help out with homework, give our toddler a bath, and enforce discipline.

Yesterday, my clinic day was crazy busy, in that unique way it always is when you’ve dared to be away for a few days. Phone calls, new results, and complex new patients competed for my limited attention and energy. I didn’t do such a great job of peacefully re-entering my office. Forget about any peaceful re-entry from one exam room to the next.

Nevertheless, this idea of peaceful re-entry speaks to me. I think of how much easier my own personal-professional balance would be if I wasn’t zinging from one thing to the next but rather gently transitioning. A peaceful re-entry would allow me to leave work at work, or at least in the garage, before coming home to my family. A peaceful re-entry between patient exam rooms would allow me to do what I most struggle to do - completely focus on one patient at a time, one thing at a time. A peaceful re-entry back to the office in each morning would allow me to approach my workday with a reserve of energy and calm that I desperately need most days.

So, as I recognize the need for peaceful re-entry, I likewise struggle to identify how to do it. Is it a mindfulness exercise? Just focus on the moment and peacefully glide from one fully-focused moment to the next. Is it a quieting of the mind? Stop worrying and agonizing and planning and fretting. Obtain peace yourself so that your travel from one task to the next is inevitably a peaceful one. Is it a natural consequence of a life lived in good balance? If you are able to achieve peaceful re-entry, you must be doing something right.

Honestly, I’m not sure. I rarely, if ever, am able to peacefully re-enter anything. But, this week I’m going to try to make my transitions more calm and gentle on myself and those around me.

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