If you are a healthcare professional, chances are good that this gets under your skin. Weekends? They don’t exist in your world. And if you have a weekend, rejoice – you can finally catch up on… more work?
Isn’t play for lazy people, or those lucky few who just happen to have the amazingly luxurious “time for that” we are all seeking?
Play is not wasted time.
Society seems to dismiss play as being unproductive. Science tells us that’s not true. Play fosters creativity, which enhances our (serious) problem solving abilities. It enhances our relationships. It boosts productivity when we do buckle down for serious endeavors, and it makes us happier. Play reduces stress, strengthens neural connections in novel and flexible ways, and physical play is good for our bones and muscles. Let’s stop dismissing the benefits and importance of play. It is time well spent.
Do you secretly resent people who make play a priority in their lives?
There’s a subculture in healthcare that seems to resent all expressions of delight that the weekend is coming. This is probably because so many of us don’t have traditional weekends. We work – maybe just a “regular” day, maybe 48 hours straight. We may or may not earn any extra money for this duty, and we may or may not get some time off during the week as a consolation prize for weekend or holiday work. So when the world is abuzz with weekend joy, some healthcare professionals are “celebrating” like this:
If you think your time is not yours to allocate, you need a major mindset makeover. Everything in life is a choice, of course. You’ve chosen your career path. You’ve chosen your current position, and you’ve chosen to negotiate (or not) and accept the terms of your employment – even if that is self-employment or entrepreneurship. You’ve chosen how quickly you respond to communications, which also means that you’ve drawn (or failed to draw) your own boundaries. You have protected some portion of the day or week for yourself, or you haven’t.
I know, I know – you don’t get paid if you don’t work. And you have major student loan debt. You have a family to support. Everyone else is working at a frenetic pace. I get it. It’s OK. But recognize it for what it is – your choice. There are a lot of nights and weekends that I choose to work too, for the same reasons (pay off my loans, support my family, be a ‘good’ professional citizen in my organization).
This weekend, I’m getting on a plane before sunrise on Sunday to fly to the west coast to give a presentation and visit another institution. I’ll lose my entire Sunday getting there. I’ll miss out on my kids, my husband, fresh air, home cooking, and my own bed. I’ll lose my entire Tuesday flying back. I won’t earn any extra money or days off for the three full days and nights I won’t see my family.
But I’ve chosen to do this. It enriches my professional life to visit new places and meet new people, and hear about their unique challenges and victories. And, I hope my perspective is enriching to them. It is my own responsibility to not over-schedule my travel, and that means saying ‘no’ sometimes, even to invitations I really want to accept.
And so, I’m going to maximize the play in my Saturday. I plan to squeeze in as many hugs and tickles and laughs as possible. My devices will be off, and the dishes will likely pile up. I will delay and neglect some things that “have to” be done this weekend, because my choice will be to play.
What will you choose to do?
I’m a physician, researcher, writer, and student of cognition and medical decision making behavior, especially in the context of emergencies. I’ve had the pleasure to serve on several national safety and quality committees for the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the Anesthesia Quality Institute. I trained in anesthesiology at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard. Recently, I’ve been honored to be selected as a board examiner by the American Board of Anesthesiology.