Marriage, children cause more burnout for female physicians
3. Ask for help, and accept help from your partner. It is important for women to clearly ask for help and to allow their partners to carry out responsibilities without micromanaging or getting frustrated that tasks aren’t accomplished exactly the way that they would have done it. Many physician moms report that their child-raising stress actually decreased after a divorce because dad now takes the kids on designated days or weekends. If that type of role delegation happened during the marriage instead of waiting until mandated by a divorce court order, stress on women would likely improve.
Further reading: Is outsourcing the key to solving physician burnout?
4. Use financial resources. Whenever possible, spend money to get the best help possible—whether that includes child care, house cleaning services or ordering out meals to avoid cooking. Don’t feel guilty—think of it in terms of a value proposition. Physician time is best compensated when working as a physician, and by funding others to do non-physician work, we are contributing to employment and the economy. Most importantly, by delegating non-physician work to others, women can spend free time on higher quality interactions, such as time with family and friends and self-care.
5. Ask for job flexibility and resources in the workplace. Physician burnout is strongly associated with a lack of control at work, and yet women physicians are given less control in the workplace than men.[x] Since burned-out physicians tend to leave the practice of medicine, it is in the best interest of both the physician and the employer to give doctors more control over their schedules. Women need to step up and ask for control over their work hours, as well as the necessary resources to do their job well. The American Medical Women’s Association lists tips on how to best negotiate a flexible work schedule with your employer.
6. Lower your self-expectations. This one might be the toughest of them all, but it is critically important to acknowledge that absolutely no one can do it all. Finding a good psychologist can help with this—letting go of the guilt of not being able to be the perfect doctor, wife and mother, learning how to prioritize your time, practicing saying no before you feel overwhelmed and making sure to take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.
[ii] STRESSES ON WOMEN PHYSICIANS: CONSEQUENCES AND COPING TECHNIQUES Gail Erlick Robinson, M.D., D.Psych., F.R.C.P.
[iv] Arch Surg. 2011;146(2):211-217. doi:10.1001/archsurg.2010.310
[v] D.E. Stewart, F. Ahmad, A.M. Cheung, B. Bergman, and D.L. Dell. Journal of Women's Health & Gender-Based Medicine. July 2004, 9(2): 185-190. doi:10.1089/152460900318687.
[vi] doi: 10.3368/jhr.XL.2.477J. Human Resources Spring 2005 vol. XL no. 2 477-504
[vii] Ann Intern Med. 1998;129(7):532-538.
[viii] BMJ 2015;350:h706
[ix] Understanding the Medical Marriage: Physicians and Their Partners Share Strategies for Success Perlman, Rachel L. MD; Ross, Paula T. PhD; Lypson, Monica L. MD, MHPE Academic Medicine: January 2015 - Volume 90 - Issue 1 - p 63–68
[x] DOI: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2000.im9908009.x