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Healthcare professionals are always on-the-go and work in a fast-paced environment. In fact, their work can sometimes be emotionally demanding. All of this combined can potentially result in stress and burnout. So how do they find the perfect balance between their professional and personal lives? The answer is “self-care,” which is not a buzzword but essential practice for minimizing stress and even staying alert. Medical professionals should take good care of themselves, as this ensures the best patient care. 

While there is a way to find balance in any medical career, some specialties and subspecialties have higher stress rates than others. As you plan the road ahead after med school and residency program as a physician, we’ve prepared a list of which fields provide the best (and worst) work-life balance, so that you can prepare accordingly. It all comes down to finding ways to self-care in the most challenging situations, no matter how demanding your specialty area may be. 

Best quality of life: factors to consider

Quality of life is a subjective topic. What makes you happy and feel at peace may not work for others, but there are some common denominators that almost everyone needs to reasonably manage stress, find time for rest and stay healthy. Here are a few:

  • Reasonable working hours: We all need rest, so make sure you have a plan if you intend to go into a field with irregular and/or long hours. You can usually create a satisfying sleep schedule, even if it means taking a 10-minute nap during the day. Try to avoid rotating shift schedules when possible, as this disrupts the flow of your sleep schedule, whatever it may be.
  • Spending time with family and friends: Don’t miss out on important moments with family or social outings. These aspects of life are important to your overall happiness. It’s all about creating a well-managed schedule. For example, if you have a good sleep schedule, timetable and coordination with your support staff, you should be able to free up some of your off-day time for quality moments with the ones you love.
  • Financial earnings: While we agree that medical school and the standard of living in some cities and states are expensive, it’s all about managing your income. So, if you’re balancing student debt and the desire to live well, make sure you’ll make enough to cover your requirements. Well, the good news is physicians are usually paid well, but if you have a particular financial goal set for yourself, ensure that your specialty’s earning potential meets it. 
  • Hobbies: Whether you specialize in oncology or pediatrics, the key is to find happiness and become an improved version of yourself. While it may be hard at first to make time for hobbies, you can begin with 5-10 minutes every day. All you need to do is do what makes you happy. It can range from writing a journal about how your day went to even knit a scarf for your loved ones.
  • Community and social life: Always try to attend social gatherings for your own mental peace and well-being. It’s important to disconnect from your energy-expending work to reconnect with yourself and society at large.  
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Happiest medical specialties 

Every medical specialty has its perks––while some may provide you a great salary, some come with a reasonable schedule. If you’re looking for the happiest medical specialties, you’re at the right place at the right time. Here are a few to consider: 

  • Family medicine: As family practices usually deal with outpatient care and manageable health situations, doctors in this field can often keep a regular 9-5 schedule and spend more time with family and friends. They can even work in private practice. This makes this field a contender for the best medical specialty for work-life balance and the best medical specialty for family life.
  • Otolaryngology: Ear, nose, and throat doctors also tend to work regular hours and earn an excellent salary, ensuring a stable work-life balance. 
  • Dermatology: This field of medicine deals with skin problems, nails, hair, and infectious diseases, which is why the work is less demanding. Dermatologists have regular office hours. In fact, since they often see repeat patients, they have a chance to build strong relationships with their patients. 
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What about job satisfaction?

Job satisfaction is often a seamless integration of high income and reasonable effort. Physicians mostly look for specialties that offer competitive compensation for their efforts. Here are a few medical specialties that boast high rates of satisfaction for those who perform them. 

If you’re looking for high pay, consider the following:

  • Neurosurgery
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Plastic surgery

If you aim to have an excellent working schedule, opt for one of the following three:

  • Preventive medicine
  • Dermatology
  • Occupational Medicine

Neurologists and cardiologists are among the highest paid in the industry. They also require the greatest level of education and preparation. But, once a surgeon finds a role, they’ll earn a high salary (sometimes up to around $900,000 annually) for a 60-hour-a-week role. Although the hours are high, the salary helps balance things out. 

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Best medical specialties to avoid burnout

We all have different ways of managing stress, and for some of us, the best way is to try to avoid it in the first place. There are plenty of impactful roles in the medical field that do not require the same stress management as performing brain surgery or providing acute care. Here are a few of the least stressful specialties: 

  • Plastic surgery: Plastic surgeons often get to be their own bosses, which means they decide how (and when) to run their practices. This flexibility helps them maintain stress at bay. Plus, a lot of their work is focused on making patients feel good about themselves, which is rewarding. This role is on track to become one of the highest-paid medical specialties in the future.
  • Pathology: In this field, physicians enjoy a good work-life balance and reap the emotional rewards of being role models to medical students and apprentices. 
  • Orthopedics: Orthopedic surgeons help their patients live better lives by providing trauma care and procedures that improve mobility, so the work is rewarding. Plus, they earn an excellent salary. 
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Are you curious about the most stressful medical specialties, even as a point of reference? Here are a few: 

  • Emergency medicine 
  • Internal medicine 
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology 
  • Neurology 
  • Critical care
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Whatever path you choose, we want to go on it with you. Count on us for premium scrubs and the kind of content that keeps you informed about your profession.