LIFE BEYOND THE OT
he achievement of work life balance involves
an intricate mix of external factors and
personal psychology that varies from
individual to individual. It does not lend
itself to easy, formulaic solutions, according
to Professor Lucey: "You can not encapsulate
work life balance in terms of a time-based formula, it's more
nuanced and complex. However, what is incontrovertible
is that there are limits to the amount of work that human
beings as individuals can handle. It is now accepted among
psychologists and neuropsychologists alike that prolonged
periods of work to the point of exhaustion diminish work
Research focusing on hospital doctors in general has shown that
burnout, at some stage of their careers, is a common occurrence.
"Burn out occurs when there's an ultimate disconnect between our
initial motivation, the passion and drive to do something worthwhile
and the external factors that we can no longer manage.
"Pushing yourself too hard brings about a deterioration in
performance and deprives patients of the individual's care skillset.
While, in many cases, recovery is possible, it takes time and comes at
a personal cost to the individual, and an economic and resource cost
to the hospital and the healthcare sector as a whole. While remedies
are possible, prevention is the best solution."
Balance is the key word, Professor Lucey explains: "Obviously, a clear
focus and a unique level of drive is required to become a surgeon.
Perhaps vocation is an old-fashioned word to use in this context, but
certainly there is a high level of dedication and commitment needed
to become a surgeon. That drive to acquire skills proficiency to a
high degree of competence and to continually expand the boundaries
of knowledge is crucial. And its validity is underlined by research
which shows that repeated exposure to tasks improves skills.
"Nonetheless, if someone defines her or himself exclusively as a
surgeon, he or she is at serious risk of creating an imbalance that
could be detrimental both in work and life outside work. The key
is to nurture a healthy level of drive that avoids obsessiveness
and obtain sufficient exposure to tasks to maximise skills but
ON THE LEVEL
WORK/LIFE BALANCE IS CRUCIAL TO
ENSURING THAT SURGEONS CAN SUSTAIN
PERFORMANCE LEVELS, ACCORDING TO
PROFESSOR JIM LUCEY