• Finding the right balance

    Work culture is slowly changing for younger doctors with increasing appreciation of the need to maintain work-life balance.

    However, once doctors reach consultant positions, the workload and level of responsibility can make these good intentions next to impossible.

    The right balance

    Drawing the line between work and home is one of the great challenges of modern life and for busy doctors it presents very specific and particular challenges. The evidence is very clear that maintaining the right balance helps manage stress, maintain good health and improves your engagement with both work and your personal life.

    Another significant benefit of good work/life balance is that it significantly improves the quality of your work and your productivity; an important consideration if you own a practice. A balanced life also makes you less error prone and more effective interpersonally so your medico-legal risk is reduced.

    Balancing work and life, managing time, attending to your relationships and developing interests that take you away from medicine in ‘measured doses’ is a skill that can be acquired and should be applied with discipline.

    Cautionary Tale

    Member Story


    Dr David Jollow, 43, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, NSW

    Sometimes I'm busy, sometimes I'm busier. I work in two public hospitals, being head of department for one of them, and I also consult in private rooms and work in a private hospital. The 2am starts aren't so bad, but it's the not knowing when the phone is going to ring that can be difficult.

    When you are running around all the time and if you work strange hours, it's the family that misses out as much as anybody. I just try to spend as much time as possible with my three boys and my wife, who works part time as a practice nurse.

    For several years we have been involved in Warriewood Surf Lifesaving Club, which is near my home. It's very social, we do patrol, my wife is on the executive and I'm the club doctor.

    I think one of the keys to surviving is to have a good relationship with your colleagues. I am very reliant on people to cover if something comes up and I need to have that trust.

    Also, I try to control the amount of work I do, and not to take on too much. I structure my day so I can have a few hours off at lunchtime to go for a swim or have lunch with my wife.

    If I've been up all night and I don't have that time for a rest, I don't think it would be doing the right thing by my patients.

    Cautionary Tale

    Member Story


    Professor John Fraser, 44, Intensive Care Specialist, QLD

    I'm a Professor of Intensive Care, I head Prince Charles Hospital's Critical Care Research group and am Director of a private unit as well as CMO of a company that is developing an artificial heart. I also have five children between 3 and 17. So I have many balls in the air with many competing demands.

    Stress doesn't really bother me that much, it's the problem of getting dedicated time where I can switch off the phone and get some exercise.

    You promise yourself at the start of the week you will do this much sport and before you know it, it's Friday. From a mental health point of view, I think it's important to spend time with people outside medicine.

    I play football for the Brisbane City over 35s – we're top of the league – and the thing I love about it is that in the football park there are no airs and graces.

    I'm pretty rubbish at football so people give me a rocket, there's something lovely about being brought down from the hallowed heights of being a professor or a doctor.

    The key thing is to remember that you're not irreplaceable, and to always try and put your family first.