The mantras today for working professionals are all about work-life balance. In a field of work that requires unwavering devotion, sacrifices often have to be made. This is undoubtedly demanding for medical practitioners who have young children under their care.

Here we will look into the various struggles that medical practitioners have with regard to balancing work and parenting, and introduce tips that will help them to overcome the struggle.

Shift work may reduce family time

In the course of a practitioner’s career, one is likely to have engaged in shift work. Irregular working hours caused by rotating day and night shifts may negatively impact adults’ physical and psychological well-being. For example, fatigue caused by the lack of adequate rest may lead to practitioners becoming more irritable and stressed. This may minimise the quality of after-work family time.

Practitioners who frequently take on rotating shifts are also likely to have a smaller window of interaction time with their children. According to Dr. Leila Morsy of the School of Education at the University of New South Wales, parents who work irregular hours are less likely to participate in activities with their children, such as reading books or helping them with schoolwork.

Split-shift parenting occurs when both parents engage in non-overlapping working schedules. This may be a preferred option for those who wish to have a stay-at-home parent at all times. However, children in these situations are likely to experience predominantly single-parenting, and a lack of overall family time may be equally detrimental on the child’s well-being.

Caring for patients and children causes emotional exhaustion

For medical practitioners involved in direct patient care, emotional exhaustion may emerge especially within parents who have to juggle caring roles both in the workplace and at home.

The term compassion fatigue refers to an example of emotional exhaustion, caused by stress resulting from the care of - and constant empathy for - suffering people. Some associated symptoms include helplessness, anxiety, and even indifference.

While the term is often applied to a caregiver-patient setting, the emotional attachment that exists between a parent and a child places the parent at risk of compassion fatigue. According to Jennifer Day and Ruth Anderson from the Duke University School of Nursing, detachment from the caring role is an essential coping mechanism utilised by formal care providers. When applied to parents, however, bonds that are formed with their child prohibit them from an emotional detachment of any kind.

Although taking care of both patients and their children can be exhausting, healthcare providers can make use of the following to manage both effectively.

1. Child care support

In a dual-income household, it is not uncommon for parents to engage helpers such as domestic workers to aid in the care of young children. This may be especially useful where round-the-clock caring for children, such as newborns, is required.

Grandparents may be a go-to resource for medical practitioners who require a more flexible child care system, such as filling in between irregular shifts. Retired grandparents are also likely to be capable of devoting more time and attention to the child than busy parents who are drained from a long day at work.

2. Maintain relationships outside of work and family

For medical practitioners who are already juggling with the realms of work and family, maintaining a social life may be the last thing on their minds. However, having trusted friends outside these very realms serve as a vital support system when the going gets tough. Scheduling a monthly dinner date may help ‘reset’ the mind and temporarily detach a person away from daily stresses.

3. Practice self-care

In order to adequately care for people around them, it is necessary for medical practitioners to ensure that they look after their wellbeing too. The Wellness Wheel is a tool that may be used to better develop balanced lives - it illustrates seven dimensions of wellness which are spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, social, environmental and financial wellness. Identifying inadequacies in any of these dimensions ensures that holistic wellness can be achieved.

Journaling is a daily habit that may be adopted for self-care. It allows for individuals to write out their feelings and frustrations, and provides a private space for self-reflection. Working professionals may also document their achievements and progress through journaling as a way to boost their self-esteem.

Meditation is another daily habit that can be adopted at the workplace or at home. With just five minutes a day, meditating helps with relaxation and channelling inner peace, which frees the mind of any worries. This mental clarity provides optimal conditions for one to function and persevere under stress. MIMS

Read more:
5 warning signs physicians could be heading towards burnout
Finding the balance between medicine and motherhood
Embracing Stress: Why it can be good for you