"Striking a work/life balance can be challenging, but we don't want to become our jobs," says Amir Vokshoor, MD, a neurological spine surgeon with DISC Sports & Spine in Marina Del Rey, Calif. "We want to stay as useful, participating parts of our local community and nation as a whole, become effective family members and have a marriage that works as well as hobbies and other activities we can pursue."
Here are Dr. Vokshoor's methods for striking a positive work/life balance.
1. Dedicate time for a hobby. Taking up a hobby, whether athletic or otherwise, gives spine surgeons personal time away from the stress of regular practice. "Most of my colleagues are avid golfers," says Dr. Vokshoor. "I like the ocean and surfing, and I believe it's absolutely therapeutic for me to be in the ocean, whether it's the rhythm of the waves or dreaming about nothing and not thinking about my last complicated case."
2. Focus on family during time together. In addition to hobbies, spine surgeons should set aside special family time. "It's been my goal to always try to make time for both family as well as outside interests and I think it's even healthier for a surgeon in their practice to avoid burnout," says Dr. Vokshoor. "The mundane nature of almost any task can become a source of angst, boredom or unhappiness in their career. I noticed this already in some of my co-residents and attendings alike and became alarmed, so now I take time away from the practice to distract from the intensity."
3. Control your own schedule. When spine surgeons have control over their schedules, they can manage participating in several different professional and non-professional activities with ease. "One thing being in control of your own schedule allows you to do is creative carve outs," says Dr. Vokshoor. "This can be challenging if you are trying to do clinical research or serve on hospital committees as well. I've tried to mix some meetings in with my activities, such as having meetings on the golf course, but it takes a lot of creativity and discipline to carve out 20 minutes to run at lunch or waking up 15 minutes earlier to walk in the park."
4. Communicate with administrators about your schedule. Let administrators and schedulers know what your needs are for personal activities. "I connected with our administrators when I added yoga to my activities, which is very healthy for my practice because I suffered from back and neck pain from long hours of operating," says Dr. Vokshoor. "I do these stretches once weekly or every two weeks and the process has helped me in surgery to perform my procedures more smoothly."
5. Practice mental fitness. Surgeons often suffer from burn-out due to stressful professional requirements or the after-affects of their careers on family relationships, causing depression or unhappiness. "I believe relaxing distractions, medication and/or brain fitness exercises can be very helpful for spine surgeons," says Dr. Vokshoor. "In the future, I think we will have brain fitness technologies that are simply accessible to make us more creative, more focused, more relaxed and optimize the processing of information and marinating what surgeons, fighter pilots and supreme athletes all have in common: the need to stay in the zone and perform at the 'A' game function level."
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