How to Be a Happier Doctor

Happier doctors are healthier, live longer and are more productive than providers with neutral or negative mindsets. Since work is a large part of most physicians’ lives, finding happiness in your work matters.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unique challenges to physicians and medical professionals worldwide. Before the pandemic, 84 percent of doctors said they were happy or somewhat happy. Three years later, only 58 percent reported the same.

Rediscovering happiness in your work as a doctor is important to your overall well-being and the quality of care you provide. The following advice on how to be a happier doctor and person can help.

A new perspective on happiness

According to Psychology Today, happiness is a state of well-being focused on a good life filled with meaning and contentment. Instead of chasing the highlight reel of life and fleeting feelings of happiness, happy people seek an overall quality of life and live with purpose.

Circumstances, income level and possessions matter less than you may expect. While research shows wealthy people tend to be happier than poor people, the gap is not significant.

People who live happy lives have negative experiences and times of considerable discomfort. The difference is in how they handle the tough times. Happy people approach challenges with a growth mindset, recognizing that some of their happiness is in their control.

Renowned author and educator Charles Swindoll said, “We have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it. Our attitude is everything.”

For those who suffer from depression or mental health challenges, receiving help through therapy and medications is important to becoming happier.

Ways to become a happier doctor

From decades-long studies to self-help courses, some solid research and recommendations have been found to increase happiness. Here, we have compiled a list to help improve the happiness of doctors.

1. Develop and maintain strong, long-term relationships

The Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest-running study on happiness, and multiple other studies identified strong, close relationships as a primary key to a happier life. Whether family, marital, friends or colleagues, people who intentionally make time to build and maintain relationships live happier lives.

These relationships strengthen us in challenging times. Our family and friends celebrate accomplishments with us. Close relationships keep us healthier mentally and physically and lower stress levels. High-quality relationships contribute to a long, healthy life more than genetics, intellect or social class.

At a time when the prevalence of loneliness continues to grow, you will be a happier doctor and person if you make time to maintain personal relationships.

According to the 2023 Medscape Physician Lifestyle and Happiness Report, eight out of 10 physicians are married or living with a partner and have a good marital relationship. Nearly seven out of 10 doctors said spending time with family and friends makes them happier and mentally healthier.

Relationships with patients and colleagues can also help you be a happier doctor. Showing your human side with patients can increase trust and strengthen your physician-patient relationship. Respectful and cordial relationships with colleagues make work more enjoyable at any job.

2. Self-care matters for happiness

The happiest people in the Harvard study also make healthy physical choices. They do regular exercise, maintain a healthy body weight, and avoid smoking and alcohol abuse. The demands of a physician’s life regularly push against our best efforts to set boundaries. So, stand firm to maintain your physical and mental health.

Take the advice you give to your patients. When you are sick, stay home and rest. Patients don’t want to be seen by a sick doctor. Plus, no one does their best work when they are ill.

Take breaks from work and relax when you are not on the job. Build time into your schedule to have fun and pursue hobbies you enjoy. This will improve your personal and professional life and help you avoid physician burnout.

Take the vacation time you earn to help you become a happier doctor. Vacations benefit your well-being and strengthen relationships with family and friends. 80 percent of physicians took vacations in 2022, and more than half took three to five weeks of vacation time.

When on vacation, leave work behind and fully invest in your relationships and personal life.

3. Identify and hone your purpose

Most doctors enter the medical field because they want to help others. Honing in on your purpose, mission or calling provides significant meaning to your work. A recent study found that a sense of purpose increases physicians’ enjoyment and satisfaction in their work and sustains them in hard times.

Faith or religious beliefs can contribute to happiness by offering meaning, purpose and value to life as well. According to a Medscape survey, nearly three-fourths of physicians reported having spiritual or religious beliefs. Churches and religious gatherings can offer communities and opportunities to build friendships and close relationships.

4. Monitor the outcomes of your work

The work of doctors and medical professionals significantly impacts the lives of patients and their families. Often, the busyness of schedules and workloads prevent physicians from seeing the full impact of their work.

Intentionally look for ways your work has benefited people, communities and the world. The outcomes will provide satisfaction and a sense of pride and fulfillment. These emotions contribute to becoming a happier doctor and obtaining greater physician satisfaction.

Doctors report that witnessing the positive effects of their work in underserved communities can be especially rewarding.

5. Develop a growth mindset and resilience

Over time, doctors can come to believe that they know all there is to know about certain diagnoses or situations. Sometimes, this is referred to as a closed mindset. Instead, choose a growth mindset and embrace life-long learning. Then, when an atypical situation arises, you will be open to investigating new options or combinations of treatments.

A growth mindset also helps to reshape our perspective on failure and reframe it into a learning opportunity. Resilience helps us adapt and learn from setbacks and failures. This resilience is critical to being a happier doctor and person.

A 102-year-old doctor says the happiest people she knows do not ruminate on negative thoughts and unnecessary stress. Instead, they learn, grow and let go of experiences that no longer serve them.

Achieve greater happiness as a doctor

Doctors and medical professionals face many challenges that contribute to unhappiness. These include a poor work-life balance, rules and regulations, piles of paperwork and burnout.

However, when as a health care professional, many options and choices are open to you. Our role at Tinkbird Healthcare Staffing is to place physicians and other clinicians in the perfect-fit medical job. We recruit and screen top-notch candidates to match the needs of the medical facilities. The physicians we recruit are our charge for the duration of their placement and we work to ensure they are well-supported.

If you are unhappy in your current position and want to make a change to become a happier doctor, contact us to discuss your options.

Recent Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search

doctors and nurses standing in a row representing medical staffing outlook