Be Present: The Balancing Act of Hand Surgery and Raising a Family
By Justin M. Kistler, MD
Our jobs as surgeons are demanding. The many years of education and training ultimately lead to the career that we have dreamed about since our years as medical students. There are long nights that often turn into early mornings. There are days or maybe even weeks that go by where we don’t see or spend enough time with our loved ones.
Our jobs as parents, husbands, and wives are even more demanding. Becoming a father was the proudest and happiest moment of my life. I am fortunate to have two beautiful, healthy children and a loving spouse. The balancing act of a career in hand surgery combined with raising a family can be tumultuous and stressful. I struggle to find that balance every day. My career (I am only a year into practice) is even younger than my children (ages 3 and 1). Too often I find that my work life blends and interferes with my personal life. It seeps into the limited time I get to see my children and my wife. When we are in the operating room, our sole focus is on that one person we are responsible for on the operating table. Our patients expect our undivided attention as do our families. Our families, as much as our patients, deserve a parent and a spouse or significant other who can be present, free of distractions. I need to put away the laptop and the cell phone. E-mails can be answered a few hours later, charts can be closed another day. We as hand surgeons are capable of extraordinary focus and diligence for hours upon hours in the operating room and the office. Why do we struggle to bring that same focus home to our families? Being present, like hand surgery, is difficult but the rewards are great. I am far from perfect when it comes to being present for my family. I have been told countless times throughout my training, “That’s why it’s called the practice of medicine.” We need to practice being present with our families, and with time and practice, we only get better.