The Religion of Workism in Healthcare – Is it Making Us Miserable?

A couple of weeks ago I was combing through my Twitter feed and came across a post by Kenny Venere that caught my eye.


The link in his tweet brought me to this article in The Atlantic titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable.”  The article goes through several reasons why Americans have made Workism their religion.

After reading this, it really got me thinking about my own professional life.

How much time am I dedicating to work?

Am I making my life centered around Workism?

The short answer is, I am.

I love my profession (PT) and I love my day to day roles, but I need to be more intentional of the boundaries I have when it comes to working.  This got me thinking about the work-life balance discussions that came up 3 years ago in this podcast here and here and in this blog.

The fact is that I continue to let work life bleed into time that I need to be present in activities outside work.  Even though I am not at my computer, in the clinic, or on my phone, my head is still working on problems, thinking about things I need to do, or mulling over an idea related to PT.

It can be exhausting and frustrating for my family.

According to a Twitter post by Adam Grant, we need about 2.5 hours of leisure time (defined as time to watch TV, socialize, go to the movies, spend time with family, and do nothing).  Read more about it in this article here.

After the #EIMClinical Podcast discussion with Brooke Janicky this week discussing burn out within PT, I couldn’t help but start to think about this idea behind Workism in our profession and beyond.  With clinicians seemingly seeing patient upon patient in clinic not to mention the notes that come along with it, are we making ourselves miserable to the point of burning ourselves out?

With the complexity of patient care getting increasingly challenging lead to Workism?

Thoughts on this idea within healthcare?  What do we do about it?


3 responses to “The Religion of Workism in Healthcare – Is it Making Us Miserable?

  1. Jamesglinnsr says:

    Great post “Shep”
    The thing that bothers me is anyone’s suggestion to spend more time behind any screen! To avoid burnout, and I have done it at least twice during a long career, PTs need to do five things in my opinion:move right, eat right, rest right,socialize right,and continue to be life-long learners.The next five days I will be hiking the Arizona Trail and discussing the importance of robust hiking in a beautiful environment with 5 or 6 other biophiliacs. Movies and TV? No thanks. Sitting really is the new smoking!
    Jim Glinn sr

  2. Cody Thompson says:

    You couldn’t be more accurate, and this is systemic across America. The idea of “success” in America is heavily misguided, and only makes us more driven by the world around us. I believe there are a lot of factors, but I DO believe that many healthcare professionals, in particular, lose sight of the idea of rest because of the “work to pay off my student debt” subconscious mentality, the overwhelming pressure we in PT have put on our own professions to become more and more each day like primary care physicians, and a goal/success-oriented satisfaction that comes from searching out things that provide instant gratification, when our patients don’t often heal as quickly as we would like.

    One solution: time to meditate/pray. This is actually REALLY HARD. Surrounding ourselves with screens/phones/EMR software creates a physiologic addiction to these devices, and cutting them off to focus on something else mentally is extremely difficult. This coming from someone who spends way too much work time on a computer…..Nevertheless, finding a way to put identity in meditation/prayer/family are great things. I look at it this way: if never worked in PT/PTA/Education or clinicals ever again, what would I be? I used to think I’d be a failure. All I wanted was to climb the chain and reach a title. Now, after a long process of discussion and prayer which has been terribly humbling, I’m learning to rest in the fact that a job is a job, but my wife/kids/family/church are the ones I should focus on, and they don’t care WHAT I do for work…….Just my two cents. Thanks for this, Mark.

  3. Barry Wrench says:

    Excellent post Mark. i agree with all above comments, and at some point we all find ourselves asking the questions, “how much is enough, and how much is too much”? Cody said it well above, that we need to take care of ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. Not just because we are in the medical profession, but because we are humans. We all need these needs to be met, and when you neglect one area to focus on something else to “take its place”, sooner or later disaster will strike. I come at this from a Christian perspective, in that have been created to follow and glorify God in all that I do. That is my purpose and where my identity lies. My work is simply an extension of that: my “calling” to do what I believe he has created me for…but that is not my true identity. We all can do a better job of really being present in all that we do, but as you mention, there needs to be defined lines to ensure health and avoid the burnout so many are prone to.

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