I said good-bye to a colleague not long ago. It was sad, because she was such a good provider and her patients loved her. But, after working 15 years in medicine, she said she just could not handle the stress anymore.
As we know, life in medicine is not easy. Often, when I am asked about being a physician assistant, I usually respond by saying “being in medicine is not a job, it is a lifestyle.” I say that because people often have a romanticized notion about what medicine is all about.
It doesn’t help that every other show on television is a medical drama or comedy depicting medical providers as helpful individuals who experience many gratifying moments saving lives. Real-life providers know it doesn’t quite happen that way.
For many, being a clinician means late nights dictating or writing notes for charts, returning phone calls to patients, and fighting insurance companies to pay for a needed procedure or study. Of course, none of this is paid work. Well, I guess our employers consider it paid, although most of us work on salary, and that means you work until it the job at hand is complete.
Who can forget the ongoing CME requirements that have to be met each year? These courses mean more work to do after your shift ends. Oh, and don’t forget holidays, weekends, and call. A health-care provider does not have a typical nine-to-five job that ends when the shift does.
Considering all of this, being a provider can be a worthwhile, fulfilling job. It means being true to yourself and finding the right balance of fun after the work is done. It means finding things you are passionate about — I love photography — and finding ways to de-stress.
We tell our patients every day that they need to exercise to stay healthy, but clinicians are often the worse at following our own advice. My friend used to say she was too tired and worn out at the end of the day to do anything else.
I admit there are some days I can’t wait to get home and see what I have recorded on TV. However, I realize that I can’t spend every night sitting in front of the tube. Being a provider also means being a leader, and being an example of what I am trying to convey to my patients.
I have to remember to do things that bring me joy, exercise, and get enough sleep every night. If I do that I know I can overcome some of the job-related stress. I can remember the fun it can be to make a difference in a life or figure out the diagnosis that everyone else has missed. I can inspire, I can laugh, I can know that what I do matters.
What do you do to wind down at the end of a hard day? What is your passion?
Sharon M. O’Brien, MPAS, PA-C, is a practicing clinician with an interest is helping patients understand the importance of sleep hygiene and the impact of sleep on health.