Healthcare burnout is just as real for practice owners as for those who work for them. The pressure of juggling on-call duties, managing staff, and handling business operations can create a perfect storm for high-level stress. In fact, studies suggest that 83% to 86% of dentists have moderate-to-severe stress, 68% of eye care professionals have a stress level of at least seven on a 10-point scale, and only one-third of veterinarians would recommend the profession because it’s so demanding.

To strike a better balance between professional demands and personal needs, practice owners must take their own advice and prioritize their mental and physical health. Doing so not only has an impact on the provider, it also can help uplift their staffers and improve their dealings with patients.

To help achieve a measured sense of control, consider the following work-life balance tips:

Let go of some responsibilities

There are likely some items on your to-do list that can be accomplished by others, so hand them over. For your practice, that could mean hiring a new associate or asking the office manager or marketing manager to handle an additional responsibility or two. Also look for things you’ve “always” done that are no longer serving you and consider eliminating (not delegating) them.

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On the home front, lean on family members or enlist paid help with chores such as yard work and cleaning, allowing for more relaxation time after work.

Take back your calendar

A day with too many commitments can leave you feeling spread thin. Develop an “ideal” weekly schedule with the right balance of patient time, staff interaction, business responsibilities, family and friends, professional development, and healthy behaviors such as exercise and meditation. Then do your best to rearrange, shorten, or eliminate various commitments to make it a reality.

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Track everything you do in a day for a few days and see if you can reallocate some of your time to resting or recharging. For example, you might take a walk instead of sitting in the car waiting to pick up your kids from practice — or you might trade some of your social media time at night for meditating or reading.

Plan for unknowns

Your practice likely handles a mix of scheduled appointments and emergency visits. Allotting time for the latter can ease anxiety for distressed patients who want to be seen ASAP. It also enables staff to more successfully navigate the needs of patients coming in for checkups or planned procedures.

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Have some funds tucked away for a rainy day, too. This can help alleviate financial stress in the event of an unforeseen problem or expense.

Leave work at the office

A clear distinction between your workspace and your private space is integral in developing a healthy work-life balance. This has become more difficult for many people since the recent shift toward and acceptance of remote work. If you’re among them, make a conscious effort to delineate. For example, don’t respond to practice-related emails or phone calls while at home or during dedicated family time. Enlist an answering service if you don’t have one.

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Try not to talk too much about work when you’re off the clock, especially at bedtime. It can create anxiety, making it harder to get the rest you need.

Foster connections and communication

Even if you run a small practice, having open lines of communication with your staff may resolve challenges that might not be rooted in the day’s work. Reaching out to professional peers in formal or informal ways to discuss successes and challenges is also invaluable, as are meaningful connections with patients. Also make sure your family interactions involve more than surface-level discussions. Share your hopes and dreams, where you want to vacation (and why), and trade stories on favorite books or shows, for example. 

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Think quality, not quantity. Before getting in the car with family or friends, have some open-ended questions in mind, so you can learn more about what makes them tick.

Once you have a handle on your own approach to work-life balance, think of how to adapt them to create a positive workplace culture that supports every team member’s mental and physical well-being.

Source: AVMA, Dentaltown Magazine, Review of Optometric Business

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