The musings of a final year medical student

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Work-Life Balance

The above phrase is commonly associated with doctors’ lifestyles. With unsociable working hours and schedules, having to deal with tricky patients, not to mention tricky colleagues, it’s not surprising that the rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide are higher than most professions. Yet it’s not just doctors who struggle to ascertain such a meticulous equilibrium.

You can blame it on whatever you like, whether that be technology or over population, however it does appear to me that our day to day lifestyle is much more crammed full and intense than perhaps it used to be. Consequently, the effects of this are shown as our health deteriorates. It’s not exactly a new phenomenon, but more of a prevalent one in our society, to the extent that it’s becoming a new genre of malaise. We are aware that many common diseases are heavily affected, if not caused, due to stress. Stress. What a horrible word. A little is supposed to be good; it gives us drive, propelling us to move forward and get the job done.

I bring up the topic of the work-life balance because it is something I am currently struggling with, but probably not from the angle you’re guessing. It’s not that I’m overworking myself; in fact it is the opposite. I feel apprehensive about devoting days to revision as I used to. The idea of cramming in solitary fills me with dread. I like to be around people, but it’s not exactly easy arranging group study sessions due to the geography of where I live. I fear falling into the trap I got myself into during my AS year at sixth form; I was entirely devoted to my studies and my medical application preparations up until March 2013. By then, I’d had enough. I had the confidence of straight As in my January exams, and foolishly calculated in my head that I should greatly reduce the revision quantity. Overall, I ended up with AAABB at AS, which I know isn’t bad, but it was below my potential and has weakened my medical application. The experience made me think of what my years to come of being a medical student will be like. Those years are infamously described as being hellish in study but fabulous with regard to the social scene. Work hard play hard is the motto of every medical student. But am I to expect intense revision 7 days a week? Is this what I’m setting myself up for? To study medicine, is it really a prerequisite to love or at least tolerate submitting yourself to hours of monotonous revision? Don’t get me wrong, I love learning, and I love libraries. I practically live in my sixth form library during my frees. But I like variety. I like having time in the day to fit in some exercise, like a nice long run, some revision, some classroom learning, some piano playing, some socialising, reading something stimulating, and time to cook myself a proper meal. I don’t want to be a machine.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can resolve my current working issues, and the following are my resolutions:
1-    Get grade eight piano scales done and out of the way before going to sixth form in the morning
2-    Make sure I go and exercise before sixth form to put me into an energised, productive mood
3-    Make a commitment to do a minimum of 1 hour revision a day. This seems like very little, but I’d rather be consistent than dread waking up on a Sunday knowing that I have a full day of textbooks ahead of me.
4-    Prepare food the night before so I actually like what I am eating at sixth form!
5-    Curfew. Staying up till midnight on a school night is NOT okay. 10pm, lights off.
6-    No work or revision on a Sunday. By having a day of pure fun I think it will motivate me work harder in the week, and refresh me so that I don’t resent getting up at 6am the next day.


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