Canadian Medical Association

Pursuing a career in medicine is a lifelong commitment that, if not carefully managed, can take a toll on your wellness and your family’s well-being. Physicians and medical students have made a commitment to improving the health and well-being of patients, often sacrificing the health of their own relationships

By choosing a career in medicine, physicians understood that they were taking on a profession that often meant long shifts, nontraditional work hours, as well as a fast-paced and often stressful work environment. These challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic: physicians have often had to take extra precautions such as quarantining or self-isolation.

Physicians are not alone in their struggle to maintain health and wellness and avoid burnout; their work can often take a toll on their partners and children. According to social worker Jordyn Hagar, who specializes in working with medical professionals and their families, once physicians begin to experience burnout, their partners may notice:

  • increased isolation
  • greater irritability
  • more time away from home
  • less communication within the relationship
  • less time spent together
  • decreased physical intimacy
  • more emotional separation

This can take a major toll on the relationship and drive people apart. Hagar recommends that once the family recognizes burnout, a formal plan may help address this issue. A plan can include agreements to:

  • engage in enjoyable activities together
  • engage in health and wellness activities together, or at least plan together how to implement vital elements such as sleep, exercise, healthy eating and time outdoors
  • spend time together as a family
  • disengage from work: take a vacation, even a short one
  • set limits for daily work engagements
  • create mandatory nonwork commitments, including with family, friends and hobbies
  • dream and plan for future endeavors together
  • increase intimacy, even if this needs to be scheduled

If you or a family member are struggling:

Visit the Physician Wellness Support page and/or contact your local physician health program. Many of the physician health programs extend their services to family members.

Are you in distress? Get help now.

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