Thursday, August 30, 2012

Much needed breaks

Upon returning home most days, I am an exhausted Intern. I have an hour long commute from the community hospital that I work at and by the time I get home all I want to do is lay on the floor and play with my infant son. At first I felt guilty about not taking time to read scholarly articles or to study more about my patients, but crawling around on the floor, having a glass of wine with dinner, and taking a long mommy-baby bath with rubber ducks and squishy toys just feels right.

My husband, ever the appropriately-timed Librarian, forwarded me an article entitled “What some people call idleness is often the best investment” last month that I have just gotten around to reading. Written by Ed Smith it discusses how regular idleness, or stillness, is essential to being extremely productive during times when intense energy is needed. The article rang true for me on so many levels. Although I hadn’t realized it, I learned the value of being idle during medical school. Marathon study sessions require intense breaks; my best breaks involved good food, good time with friends, and lots of exercise and rest.

Now as an Intern, I have to fight the urge to be busy all day long. I have been doing my best to take time during the day to breathe, get a snack, check in with our Nanny, and be idle even if it is for only 5 or 10 minutes. I cannot count the number of days hunger has assaulted me reminding me I haven’t eaten in hours or my aching breasts let me know I have gone too long without pumping.

Pumping has provided a wonderful opportunity to be somewhat idle. While my pump whirs and pulsates, I look at videos and pictures of Zo on my phone. I am a little sad that my built in “breaks” will be coming to an end in a month or so when I stop pumping. Zo turns 1 in in less than a month and my sore nipples are very tired of the 4 times a day pumping sessions. I will do my best to incorporate small “idle” periods in the workday even once pumping is over because I wholeheartedly believe that trying to be busy all day results in inefficiency and burn out. Once home, I will continue to “cut work off” unless absolutely necessary and roll around on the floor with Zo, take our daily baths, and teach him the power of being idle.


  1. I agree very much with the need for breaks, and I'm a person who personally chooses not to work on post-call days or vacations and to take a day off each weekend whenever possible. But while this strategy makes me happier and healthier than many of my fellow residents, it also makes it difficult if not impossible to keep up with them academically. Any suggestions on how to keep those breaks without being a bad doctor?

  2. This is a very healthy attitude - mentally and physically. For you and for your family. I can't tell you how many times (on vacation) The Bearded One's cell phone tether has created angst.
    If there is no baby to play with - meditation works well also...just 20 minutes is rejuvenating.

  3. @ Solitary Diner - do you really think you are not keeping up with your fellow residents? And if so, do you think this is because you aren't studying at home and they are? Thus far, I have found time to read during downtime during the day. Also, it forces me to pay extra special attention during noon conferences. I have been speaking with other Residents (including my Chiefs) and they agree that they all struggled with trying to study at home and most of them stopped trying. The general consensus that I have gotten is that most Interns read about their patients' conditions on the fly and any additional studying occurs when major deficits are seen/ when studying for Boards. Please share if folks in your program do something differently.


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