Work Life Balance

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With one hand on the barre, we perform our demi-pliés starting in first position then progressing all the way through to third, fourth and then fifth positions. Renee, our teacher, is observing closely. “Pretend you have a string pulling up all the way through your spine to the centre of your head,” she says. I watch as she demonstrates her analogy by clasping an imaginary cord above over her head between her fingers. We then launch into a full routine of jetés and arabèsques. Here I am one of them- another ballet dancer in training.

Turning the clock backwards, I started my morning studying in the library. I recollect opening my diary to survey the week- work shifts, dance classes, birthday parties and a family dinner over the weekend.

Forward an hour, I am a medical student sitting in an obstetrics tutorial discussing routine antenatal screening and care. “Blood group and antibody screening, tests for rubella and syphilis serology” I reply.

My afternoon is spent in antenatal clinic alongside my mentor obstetrician. Clinical experience is an essential component to consolidating my tutorial sessions. I scribbled down vital statistics and facts as he reeled them off; “crown rump length, 1cm, gestational age 7 weeks… crown rump length, 3cm, gestational age, 10 weeks…”. He asked me to measure the expectant mother’s blood pressure and fundal height, feel for the lie of her fetus and use the portable ultrasound device to listen for the fetal heart rate.

Balance is an amazing thing. It can also be quite elusive. As doctors in training, I realise that the struggle for balance is something we have to come to terms within ourselves from Day One. Balance is at the heart of maintaining professionalism in the face of internal and external conflicts. Thinking under pressure with little sleep; showing empathy whilst maintaining distance; studying for qualifying exams at the end of a long week after working extended hours.

The situations we deal with and witness in a single day can sometimes leave us feeling that we have lived through a week. These pressures quickly accumulate. I have seen it affect my fellow students. Our profession is so much about being part of people’s lives at often vulnerable times. To be effective, it’s important we sustain a healthy balance in our own lives We need to take responsibility for our own physical and psychological well being.

Work life balance is a lesson in life. It takes discipline and study. It might include taking time out to plan your week ahead, or learning to say no in order to do the things you want to do.  Sometimes it’s about coming to terms with your own limitations. Having balance enables us to work hard whilst having the space to fulfil our other purposes as individuals- whether its spending time with family, expressing ourselves through our interests or staying active and fit.

I know that in my life, despite the often tricky juggling act, the things I do outside of Medicine maintain my motivation and focus. They provide me with opportunities to step back from the world of medical terminology, lists of differentials and patient experiences and keep me refreshed. Because of these things, I am able to enjoy my clinical school life and appreciate the challenges of studying Medicine.

The person who develops a talent for living a full and multi-faceted life is one who can relate to anyone; as well as possessing self-satisfaction. And as doctors, to possess this talent is the difference between being good and great.

Work Life Balance And On My Way To Becoming A Doctor was written by Miss Linny Kimly Phuong (VIC) in October 2008 as part of her AFMW Leadership Scholarship.

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