Balance Helps Physicians Achieve Work-Life Success

Cooking, yoga, photography and family help keep a team of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta physicians grounded after a long day at work.

Being a physician is a rewarding and demanding job; it can take a toll on you if you don’t take care of yourself. Claudia Venable, MD, and Michelle Kelly, MD, Children’s physicians who are also parents, know this as well as anyone. Yoga, photography and cooking are just a few of the ways Drs. Venable and Dr. Kelly find ways to relieve stress and keep their home and work lives in balance.

In addition to cultivating hobbies and enjoying family time, they also practice mindfulness, which helps them stay present in each moment. Mindfulness and balance are important components of the Children’s Physician Wellness Program—and vital to a long, successful career as a pediatric physician.

For Dr. Kelly, yoga has been invaluable. “I achieve balance in my workday by attempting to be present in each moment. I now sit on a stool as I take a patient history because I feel better able to listen during each patient encounter. Visits feel like conversations instead of questionnaires,” Dr. Kelly says. “When the patient histories become challenging or exhausting, I breathe deep and collect my thoughts before speaking. I would apply yoga principles in discussing lifestyle choices with patients so often that I obtained my yoga teacher certification in summer 2018.”

Dr. Venable learned early on that cooking and using her camera helped her foster creativity. “My creative life has been essential for resetting me and refreshing my busy work life,” she says. She became a physician in the 1970s, at a time when women’s career choices seemed limited to teaching or nursing. As one of 23 women in her 86-member medical school class, she says her “burning passion to be a woman in the medical field … drove [her] to work like there was no tomorrow.” She turned to her creativity to help relieve stress and find much-needed balance.

“Keeping my creative side alive has helped me on those days when I am not at work,” Dr. Venable says. She finds joy in making both everyday and holiday meals for her family—“eating beautifully and well has many rewards,” she says—and she never travels without her camera.

For pediatric physicians who are parents, family plays an important role in keeping them grounded. Dr. Kelly says that when she is having a difficult day, her husband and children understand that her work can be intense and give her support and encouragement.

“Pediatricians recognize that family life is vital,” Dr. Kelly says. “At certain times in your career, you can give more at the office or hospital. Recognize when you can’t, and find your voice to create the career and lifestyle that best serves you, your family and your community.”

Ultimately, finding this balance in their careers as physicians has brought both Dr. Kelly and Dr. Venable great joy and satisfaction. “As I near retirement, it becomes ever clearer to me that we should all look until we find what makes us happy,” Dr. Venable says. “So for all those countless days I have spent in the hospital and all the patients I have cared for, I am grateful beyond words to have found myself in such a rewarding place, here at Children’s, every day.”

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