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Balancing Work and Family During COVID-19

By William F. Pientka II, MD

The COVID-19 crisis has certainly caused fear, stress, strain, fatigue, and frustration for all of us. Our professional responsibilities as hand surgeons have called for unexpected responsibilities, odd hours, new telehealth technologies and processes, and uncertainty most of us have not before experienced. These stressors have inspired some to leave the practice of medicine, while others have embraced the “new normal” with a drive to adapt and overcome.

What is not given enough attention in our field, however, are the tribulations that COVID-19 has caused for hand surgeons outside of work. Balancing our duty to our patients with our duties to our families has always been challenging, but this has become even more so since March of 2020. The uncertainty we have faced as a surgeon community is echoed and often eclipsed by the fear and uncertainty of our spouses, loved ones, and children. Now, more than ever, it is critical to prioritize balance. We dedicate ourselves to our patients, and after long suspensions of elective surgeries, many of us face immense backlogs of procedures and patients begging for relief. Despite this, nurturing the relationships with family and friends that comprise the foundations of our selves is critical to prevent burn-out and allow us to continue to care for our patients effectively for many years to come.

The practice of medicine is different now. What is expected of us is changing rapidly, and the frustration that accompanies such uncertainty is valid and unavoidable. Embrace your support network and dedicate yourself to your loved ones with the same passion you dedicate yourself to your patients. Cherish the new unexpected “down time” of elective surgery suspensions by re-devoting yourself to your family. Make lasting memories with your “home team.”  We will get through these trying times, but we can’t do it alone.

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