How to Maintain a Good Work-Life Balance as a Physician Assistant

Osmosis Team
Published on Oct 3, 2022. Updated on Sep 30, 2022.

Physician assistants, or PAs, are often unsung heroes in healthcare. In addition to supporting doctors in the office, PAs decrease physician workloads by handling tedious tasks like suturing after a long session of surgery or taking on administrative duties such as managing prescriptions. PAs also provide doctors with the ability to care for more patients by handling home visits and other time-intensive types of care like hospital admissions.

In the next decade, the job growth for PAs is set to increase by an astounding 28%. As opportunities for PAs grow and the reliance on them to deliver healthcare increases, it's increasingly important we create supportive, sustainable working environments to help PAs avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

While achieving balance can seem near to impossible in such busy (and occasionally chaotic) environments, it doesn’t have to be. The key is to make time and energy to practice self-care so physician assistants can also properly care for others. When there is an imbalance, it leads to stress, a weakened immune system, adverse patient events, burnout, and job dissatisfaction. 

Self-care isn’t selfish, it's survival, and it’s important for PAs to know that cultivating happiness and finding joy at work and in their personal lives is not only tolerated but strongly encouraged.

What if you’re feeling close to burning out? 

Burnout is the discomforting but common side effect of physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion, an exceptionally stressful work environment, and inadequate time to recharge. Recognizing the signs of burnout are important to preventing it. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, try implementing some of the following tips. 

Tip 1: Evaluate your work environment   

Having a supportive work environment is a significant way to prevent burnout. Take some time to assess your current workplace. Take note if your role as a PA is clearly defined or if you're constantly taking on extra responsibilities. Next, consider whether or not the productivity expectations are realistic. Lastly, pay attention to how much downtime you get and determine if it's sufficient for you and your desired lifestyle. Consider each of these factors and make sure to talk with your supervisor about any issues that arise.

Tip 2: Take care of yourself 

It's critical to prioritize self-care when working in the fast-paced healthcare industry. Self-care allows you to recharge, as well as find enjoyment and fulfillment in other aspects of life aside from work.

Make time for downtime, whether curling up with a great book, seeing close friends, or even doing something adrenaline-pumping and adventurous like skydiving. Exploring new activities is a great way to express yourself and enhance your quality of life.

Implementing a mindfulness practice is another great way to care for yourself. Being mindful allows you to quiet the noise of everything around you and reconnect with your inner self. Some ways to incorporate mindfulness into your days include meditation, focusing attention on your breathing to center yourself, and consciously observing your thoughts or feelings without acting on them. 

And, of course, maintaining a nutritious diet is essential to keeping you healthy and happy by properly fueling your body. Working in healthcare is a demanding job, so incorporating healthy meals has to be a conscious priority along with some regular exercise. It's a great way to clear your mind and release endorphins to improve your mood.

Tip 3: Rest and recharge

Exhaustion–whether it's physical, mental, or emotional–plays a large role in burnout. Getting restful sleep and taking regular breaks can help. And while having an official bedtime may be something you thought you left behind in childhood, it's a crucial part of good sleep hygiene. Other elements of sleep hygiene to consider are having a nightly routine to help you prepare for bed and restful sleep, as well as creating a bedroom environment that is comfortable and relaxing. (Make sure to put that phone away at least an hour before bed!)

Another way to help you recharge is by organizing your schedule. Carve out a block of time for work duties with a finite end time to prevent your job from intruding on your life outside of work. Seeing a visual representation of your time and how it's divided allows you to be fully aware of and in control of how you spend your days.

Why a healthy work-life balance is essential

With a growing staffing shortage, it is increasingly important to keep healthcare professionals happy, healthy and satisfied with their careers. The global pandemic has contributed to a significant decrease in staff due to burnout, illness, and labor costs. Ensuring staff members feel appreciated, have time for proper rest, and can maintain a work-life balance is not only beneficial to their employers, but patients and society as a whole. 

Staff shortages often lead to longer wait times for patients to receive care, and bigger caseloads for healthcare workers, which leads to stress, burnout and people having no choice but to leave their jobs. Replacing a PA costs about $250,000, which is no small investment. However, it's also important to consider how the loss of a talented, knowledgeable, and caring PA impacts patient satisfaction and care.

Make sure that as you tend to others, you take time to care for your own physical and mental health, so that you can be at your best for yourself, your family, friends, and patients.



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