As a Physician, Time for Myself Is Hard to Find

October 10, 2011

Time for myself. I’m not even sure how to do that. I am afraid of the repercussions.

I used to go to an exercise class every Saturday morning. I would do rounds early and go to the gym. One of my “classmates” is a patient of mine. I enjoyed going to class and really got into it. I would lose myself in the music, and I had fun while I burned calories. I rarely missed a class.

As luck would have it, I have had to rearrange my weekend schedule. My daughter’s gymnastics class has been moved to the same time my class is. So by rearrange, I mean, I don’t get to go to my class.

Yesterday, I saw my classmate/patient. She mentioned how she hasn’t seen me in a while. I explained that I couldn’t make it because I had to take my daughter to gymnastics and I’d never make it on time. She said there’s another class on Wednesday mornings, and that I should go to that one. It must have been obvious from my facial expression that I was thinking, “Yeah, that’s gonna happen,” because she said, “Just don’t schedule patients then. It’s just an hour. You have to have time for yourself.”

Time for myself? Wow. That’s a concept. When I was planning my practice, I said I wanted to be able to schedule things the way I wanted. And what did I do? I made a schedule based on what I thought my patients would want, with the exception of Friday, which I scheduled around a morning conference and my kids’ after-school activities. So I have hours that start at 8 a.m. four days a week because patients like coming in before they go to work. I end at 5 p.m. two days a week, but at 6 p.m. twice a week to accommodate patients who want to come after work. I work through the traditional lunch-time so patient can come during their lunch hour. On Friday, I start late so I can go to grand rounds, and end early so I can shuttle kids where they need to go.

Time for myself. I’m not even sure how to do that. I am afraid of the repercussions. If I start late on Wednesday, where will I put those patient slots? I don’t want another late day. I can’t start any earlier. Patients already complain about the wait for an appointment, so I can’t afford to just cut out a few slots. Speaking of complaining, despite what I thought was an accommodating schedule, I still get complaints that we aren’t open late enough and that we don’t schedule patients on the weekend. Seriously? Am I not supposed to go home at all? It’s not like I twiddle my thumbs when I’m not in the office. I’m doing rounds, I’m grocery shopping, washing and folding laundry, helping with homework, you know - life stuff.

Time for myself. Maybe someday. If I win the lottery.

For more on Melissa Young and our other Practice Notes bloggers, click here.