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Balancing Career and Personal Life

Apr 09, 2010

Some people put a lot of emphasis on keeping their personal and professional lives separate. So, how do I separate my home life from my work life? The simple answer is that I’m not very good at it and I don’t really want to change.

I am often struck by how my job, home and recreational time interact and melt into each other. As having diabetes is a 24/7 job, I find being a diabetes educator is a 24/7 job. I work in a relatively rural practice - with only one diabetes educator (me) and an endocrinologist, it is impossible to “hand off” the daily challenges of diabetes management to another professional.

My 70 plus pediatric patients with type 1 diabetes and their families do an overall wonderful job of problem solving, but illness, sports, infusion set hiccups and teen years bring challenges. Someone needs to be on the end of the line that a parent or child connects to, someone who can validate their treatment decision or help them find one. All my patients with type 1 diabetes are provided with my cell number and the on call emergency number for our clinic. If I am not at the other end of the line, they always have someone to contact. If I am going to be in an area where cell coverage is not available (like at the top of a mountain or in a foreign country), I leave a message on my cell phone, so patients are not wondering why we have not connected.

I am fortunate to love my profession and working for the diabetes “cause.” There are endless opportunities for volunteer work, and it’s difficult to sort through how many hours of “recreational and family time” I want to devote to diabetes. I can say no to a “bingo fundraiser,” but I find it easy to say yes to bike rides for diabetes. I participate in many long bike rides during the summer, so an enjoyable volunteer activity for me is to lead an evening bike ride every week during the spring and summer for those riding “Tour de Cure” or “Ride to Cure Diabetes.” I love backpacking, so I organize a backpack trip for teens with diabetes during diabetes camp. My family is supportive as well, with my husband joining us to cook for the overnight, and my son often leading rock climbing back at camp.

So back to the question, how do you balance work and personal time? In my life, it is seamless. I leave my office in the evening, knowing that I may have a call at 10 p.m. or 6 a.m. It may be a young teen who just gave rapid acting insulin in lieu of long acting; or a parent with concerns about bridging multiple daily injections until a new pump arrives. I spend some of my “vacation time” at camp or volunteering as a diabetes educator in a foreign country.

I find a level of satisfaction that enhances my life and makes me grateful that I have such a challenging and rich career. I am lucky that so many of my personal passions intersect with my professional interests. However, blending work and home life is not easy for everyone. "Diabetes burnout" is a real thing and can affect individuals who do find it difficult to mesh their professional and personal lives.

What about you? Do you keep your "lives" separate? Or do the lines tend to blur between your leisure activities and the ones you get paid for?

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