CHESTThought Leader BlogHow to Balance Personal and Professional Life During Fellowship

How to Balance Personal and Professional Life During Fellowship

This post is a part of our Life as a Fellow blog post series. This series includes "fellow life lessons" from current trainees in leadership with CHEST.

Been there and done that!”

Yes, with 2 more months to graduate from my pulmonary and critical care fellowship, I think a lot of you will identify with me—especially with a move away (or rather a coast away) from home, with a highly active 4-year-old son, a remotely working spouse (whose schedule follows the opposite coast), and a busy fellowship!

It’s the truth that a critical care fellowship is going to be hard, really hard, physically hard, and emotionally stressful. There’s lots of expectations at the level of a fellow and the anxiety of delivering on those and then running home late and realizing that…“Oh, I have a presentation tomorrow! ….OK... let’s just cook really fast, put the little one to bed, and then work on it! “Oh, but the pager would just not let me focus or sleep…sigh!  And then there is an alarm, my greatest enemy, which just reminds me of the tumultuous day to come.

But in these 3 years, not one day did I feel, “why am I here”? I was excited to go back to work no matter how grueling the day was going to be! That is the key…to do what you like and to like what you do; and when you find the right balance of managing the work and home frontier, these few years of training may not actually be so bad. Hope the following few tips help:

Your health first

I know the reaction for this is going to be...“What? Where is the time for that?” I did that too and learned it the hard way…the time is now! From day one, dedicate any time of the day for any particular type of exercise, which not only will give you a workout but also makes you feel good. It doesn’t have to be every day. Spinning classes 4 days a week did the trick for me. If you take care of yourself, then can you take care of your family and your patients.

Eat right

Again, I know you are going to say…“I am lucky if I get to eat!” Change that. Two to three years is enough time for the body to take a toll from unhealthy eating habits, which does not necessarily have to reflect on the outside. If you are a shake person then make those shakes (veggies, fruits) and carry them with you. Keep your white coat pockets full with bars, nuts, and fruits. All these come handy with long hours of rounding.


This one I cannot argue about, but just catch up on it whenever possible. With duty hour regulations this is not as bad as it used to be.

Plan your week ahead of time

Plan the needs of your family, make a list, and complete those before your busy week starts.

Preplan your presentations

Start working on your presentations ahead of time. Easier said than done, but if you give it a head start and then work piecemeal on them, it will take the edge off the last minute.

Have your own PCP

This sounds stupid but believe me, this is the most important favor you could do to yourself. From personal experience there is no time for this at the peak time in training as things do happen and then you are running around needing blood tests and referrals.

When on vacation…only vacation

This is needed to stay sane, travel, relax, read, swim…anything that will make you forget what you do for a living (only for as long as the vacation though!)

Enjoy the small things in life

Your engagement, wedding, birth of your first child, his or her first steps, reading to them at night, picking them up from school, cooking their favorite food: these few years are not coming back. It’s the quality that matters, not the quantity!

Last but not the least

A great support system goes a long way in these hard years of life, and having that just makes you so much more grateful!

Dr. Leena Pawar completed her pulmonary and critical care fellowship from the SUNY Update Medical University in 2016. She received her MBBS from Dr. D.Y. Patil Medical College in India and completed her internal medicine residency from North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System Forest Hills Hospital in New York. Dr. Pawar will practice in California.