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It is important to introduce this balanced perspective of what it
means to be a surgeon as early as possible in the training process:
"A sustainable conception of the role ideally begins at the initial
stages of surgeon formation. We need to move away from dated
characterisations of the surgeon and emphasise attributes that are
relevant to the surgical profession of the 21st century ­ qualities
such as adaptability and flexibility. A fully-rounded understanding of
the surgeon's leadership role is also vital. Trying to be Superman or
Superwoman puts the individual under intense strain. It's important
to get a balanced view of what you want from work and life.
"Today's surgeon works with and leads teams, so when we talk about
work/life balance we're looking at not just an internal balance but an
external balance in terms of one's capacity to work with and support
other people. The surgeon can speak for the profession and the team,
and can refuse to allow reduction in regard for colleagues to corrode
the team dynamics. The surgeon with a balanced perspective is
ideally placed to play an important role in building team morale.
Maintaining work/life balance is not a narcissistic endeavour, it is
part of a responsibility not just to yourself but to those you work
How realistic are work-life balance objectives in the context of the
under-resourced healthcare sector: "How realistic is it to demand
top level performance from an exhausted surgeon? The successful
implementation of significant change is dependent on surgeons
themselves engaging in the strategic management and evolution of
the profession. If that responsiblility is handed to a faceless manager,
it won't work. The impetus to find real, balanced solutions must
come from surgeons themselves."
How does Professor Lucey envisage work life balance solutions
developing over the next five to 10 years? "Surgeons will take
increasing ownership of their roles, and the shaping of those roles,
in a progressive and co-operative way, I believe. That is essential
because in the years ahead, the use of technology will increase
and patient demand will, rightly, expand and advance. The search
for balance will encounter new challenges and it will be the
responsibility of surgeons to ensure that they lead these changes in
a way that maintains their integrity as practitioners at the peak of
their powers and as fully rounded, human beings with satisfying and
fulfilled lives."
Professor Jim Lucey is Medical Director of St Patrick's
Mental Health Services, Dublin and Clinical Professor
of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin. In addition to
medical management, he maintains his clinical practice
at St Patrick`s, where he specialises in the assessment,
diagnosis and management of obsessive compulsive
disorder (OCD) and other anxiety disorders. He gives
public lectures and is a regular broadcaster on mental
health matters on RTÉ radio, featuring on Today with
Sean O'Rourke.
Professor Lucey has written a new book, In My Room,
which tells the stories of patients on a journey to
recovery from mental illness. The author's earnings from
sales of this book will be given to the St Patrick's Mental
Health Foundation, Ireland in support of the Walk in
My Shoes campaign that is raising funds for services for
young people with mental health problems in Ireland.
Visit for additional information,
podcasts and reviews, and follow Professor Lucey on
Twitter, #TalkMental
Three simple steps to maintain your work/life balance
Focus on your work not on peripherals
Technical ability requires sleep. All the research
indicates technical ability deteriorates with a lack of
sleep. Dr Lucey recommends a TEDGlobal 2013 talk
delivered by Russell Foster, circadian neuroscientist on
why we sleep,
talks/russell_foster_why _do_we_sleep
Develop other areas of your life. Spend time with your
family. If you like to climb rocks, go rock climbing!
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