Doctor Dads Keep an Eye on Emotional Wellness

Two Children's dads share tips on work-life success.

Maintaining balance is a critical success factor for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta physicians. Two of our physicians, who are also busy, involved dads, share how they create balance in their lives to keep the stresses of their work from affecting the time they spend with family and friends. See what Pediatric Hospitalist Dave Kotzbauer, MD, and Emergency Department Physician Michael Young, MD, have to say:

Mental and emotional wellness is important to a physician’s overall well-being. What do you do to stay balanced during or after what might be a long or stressful day?

Dr. Young: I like working closely with other staff members. I try to keep work fun and remind myself and others to embrace the tough days as much as we like to embrace the good days. Tough days are where we grow and become better as people and physicians. I also try my best to stay in good shape. I always remind myself that exercising releases happy hormones. I am always in a great mood after a good workout.

Dr. Kotzbauer: It’s a fact that long days are the norm for hospital workers. I usually spend 10 to 12 hours at the hospital, and I know my specialist and surgeon colleagues have even busier days, and nurses and therapists typically cover 12-hour shifts. While my day is challenging and somewhat stressful, and can go on well after I leave, I personally try to find some time for a 30-minute jog in the evening or perhaps a little Netflix before bed. I have found that “The Office” is a great show and stress reliever!

How does your family help keep you grounded?

Dr. Young: My wife is great at helping me get through challenging days. She is a great listener and my best friend and always has a way of making me feel better. My wife and kids remind me not to be too hard on myself.

Dr. Kotzbauer: My situation is a bit unusual in that my family (my wife and three teenage kids) lives in Connecticut. When I’m home, my kids help keep me balanced simply by being themselves and being happy. I enjoy whatever they enjoy—chorus, viola, lacrosse, basketball, softball, crochet club, schoolwork, video games, movies, etc. I love that they have a great variety of interests and activities, all of which are great stress relievers for me.

Are there any words of wisdom you’d share with your colleagues regarding balancing the demands of being a dad and being a physician?

Dr. Young: Work hard; play hard. I try my best not to put too much pressure on myself as a father and physician. No one is perfect, and it’s OK to not be perfect. I like talking with other staff members who are parents—there are so many amazing mothers and fathers who balance work and parenting at Children’s. We share our experiences as parents, and I learn so much from others by doing that. I also do my best to make sure I take care of myself mentally by laughing as much as I can, eating healthy, exercising and living in the present.

Dr. Kotzbauer: I hope that other docs can find the balance that works. I am sure each is different; some may need less time away from work, and some may need more time. The hospital environment can be stressful, and I think days off are important for every physician’s health and career longevity. I am extremely thankful to work for a hospital system such as Children’s, with such dedicated administrators, doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, environmental service workers, food service workers, etc. My job would be far more stressful, if not impossible, without such great support from all of the above.

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