Learn how successful professionals excel in the field of naturopathic medicine without sacrificing family time or their personal well-being.
In a 2015 survey by Workfront, only 34 percent of employees strongly agreed with the statement, “I believe I have a good work/life balance.”
Juggling a career or education with the demands of a family is a challenge in any field, but the vast majority (74 percent) of naturopathic physicians report being satisfied or very satisfied with their career choice, and 77 percent of naturopathic medical professionals feel successful in their careers. Still, one of the most common questions we get from prospective ND students is, “how do people make it work?”
With the right tools and techniques, you can be successful in medical school and your career, while maintaining a healthy family life. We asked several prominent NDs from our member schools to share their secrets to finding balance.
While attending medical school, students practice good time management and rely on support systems to keep everything running smoothly.
Dr. Lindsay Adrian of Integrated Health Clinic in Fort Langley, BC became pregnant during her second year at Boucher, and her son was born during her third year. She now has three children. “I have come to realize that kids choose when to come,” she says. She emphasized how important a supportive partner is for a parent during ND school. “I don’t think I could have managed as well as I did without him.”
Her mother also provided support after Dr. Adrian’s son was born. “I didn’t realize that I would likely have been excused from a mandatory class for a week, so I had Dominic on a Saturday and was in class for my manipulation course on Wednesday,” she recalls. “It was only possible because my mom stayed with us for some time after Dom was born and she came to the school and hung out in the common area with the baby while I was in class so I could continue to breast feed on demand.”
“At the end of the day, the way I managed to have a baby and finish my classes and clinic shifts on time and successfully was very lucky and multifactorial,” she says. “I had a fantastic support system at home, my baby was happy and healthy and slept relatively well, I established a routine early with breastfeeding around my three hour class blocks (and had a husband and mom that would bring Dominic to me during lunch hour), and I compartmentalized and optimized my time so that when I was at school I was focused and engaged in learning and therefore did not need much additional study time, so that when I was at home I could focus on being a mom. There were certainly times when overlap between my roles was necessary, and those were really challenging, however persistence is key and at the end of the day you just put one foot in front of the other!”
Dr. Mary Browning of Wellness Personified in Mercer Island, WA, also says the support from her husband was incredibly valuable while she raised three elementary-aged kids and went back to school at Bastyr. She now has four children.
Her secret to finding balance was compartmentalizing. “When at school, be at school. When at home, be physically present in a common room even if you’re studying,” she says. In addition, she prioritized time with her family. “I found that Friday nights were perfect for happy hour with my husband and/or my kids. Maybe a movie out (or streamed). That simple time together helped a lot. When the kids had school vacations I tried really hard to do fun things as a family,” she says. “Sometimes it’s the little things that are the glue keeping your family together. Dinner at the table together, trips to a museum. Even boring time together is time together.”
“If you have kids in school, it’s easy in that you are in school or at work when they are. If your kids are babies, get a great daycare. You deserve to go to school and to work. It’s not selfish, it’s normal,” Dr. Browning says. “I did my best and I don’t think my kids felt like their life took a dive when I went back to school,” she says. “As my youngest told me recently, it had allowed them to become more independent. That’s a good thing by any measure.”
For others who didn’t have children during school, it was all about being responsible and organized.
Dr. Briana Peddle, who practices in Port Moody, BC, says, “I’d prefer to get up at 5 am to study after a full night sleep than to compromise my sleep.”
Dr. Taylor Bean, who practices in Maple Ridge, BC, says “Although times were busy during school, what kept me on track was simply being organized. Having an organizer that I could lay out where projects were due and when I needed to have them done. I also had a white board in my room to list the projects and exams so I could cross them off when completed. There is something very satisfactory about crossing off your to-do-list!”
Dr. Bean also laid the groundwork for her practice while she was still in school. “During school, I started writing small articles so when I graduated, I had some material to use. I have since altered them and expanded these articles, which have really come in handy to help promote my services. In addition, I started my Facebook page and website during school. I have since changed many things about my website but the core of it was done and only small modifications are done.”
After graduation, many NDs start practices and families at the same time. Here’s how they made it work.
Dr. Louise McCrindle, who has a private practice in Toronto and also teaches at CCNM, has six-year-old twins. “The first year with infant twins was very intense,” she recalls. “My husband also works long hours and I only took three months off before going back to work. That being said, I was able to initially go back to work quite part-time and strike a good balance that was flexible and has evolved with what works best for our family at the various stages.”
“I was lucky to have a wonderful childcare provider, an extremely hands-on and supportive husband, and fantastic support from extended family,” Dr. McCrindle says. “It really does take a village! At the one year mark, when most go back to a 9 to 5 job, I also remember thinking how lucky I was to continue to have the best of both worlds – a schedule that meant I could balance home life with the children and a busy, fulfilling career.”
Dr. Peddle now has a young son, and she is still very active in her practice and other professional endeavors, like Birth Talks, a collective of birth and postpartum professionals. “I’ve learned that concept of true balance is an illusion, especially for working parents,” she says. “That’s okay. We need to get comfortable with that. ‘Balance’ is actually acclimatizing to your new reality. You won’t have the same amount of free time you had when you were working your old 9 to 5 job, or before you had kids. But what you do devote your time to are the things that hopefully bring you the most joy. Hopefully you love what you do so that going to work feels more like nurturing an enjoyable hobby than slogging away at work.”
Dr. Bean is also raising two young children while practicing in BC, traveling overseas, and providing content for a webinar series. “Because my children are still very small, my mornings with them are very important,” she says. “I have created my day to start off with my family in the morning, working midday, and evening with my kids, which always includes an hour walk after dinner with them. Then after they go down for the night, I spend about an hour on work and the rest with my husband.”
For NDs without kids, making time for loved ones is still crucial. Dr. Daemon Jones, who educates patients in Maryland, always prioritizes spending time with her boyfriend, friends, and family – whether it be exercising, being outdoors together, or going on trips to reconnect. “I take time every six months to evaluate if my life is working the way I want it,” she says. “This way I don’t fall too far down the rabbit hole and lose myself.”
After the first 10 years of her practice, she began to feel exhausted. Then, Dr. Jones says, “I started to work smart instead of hard. I have started to harness my content from seven years of articles and two books to work for me instead of me working for money.” She still sees patients, but much of her time is spent lecturing and teaching classes to groups.
Keeping life in balance requires some intentional effort, but it can be done. Here are some top tips from NDs who have it figured out.
Dr. Bean says, “Look at your week – how much time are you concentrating on working, advertising, learning, spending time with family, and self-care? Slot in times that will be only for yourself, moments with your family, then the rest with work. By writing down these personal moments for yourself and family time, you will visually see where you have a planned event so you can stick to this.”
“Limitations need to made and boundaries need to be adhered to,” Dr. Bean adds. “By setting boundaries for myself and towards my patients, there is a mutual respect that our time is very valuable. As a result, I receive less emails and more bookings to go over multiple questions.”
Dr. John Furlong of the University of Bridgeport says, “It seems to me that as ‘healers,’ we must realize when we’re not at our best and take a break. If you’re sick, take a day or two off – it’ll work out. If you’re in the middle of personal trauma, take some time too. We’re not doing our patients the service they deserve when the distractions of life get the better of us.”
Dr. Jones says, “I meditate every day for 25 to 30 minutes. It reminds me that there is always time for self-care and family time.” In addition, “I plan in my schedule two days per week to do family, friends, or boyfriend activities. These dates are as important as any work dates. I do vacations every year with my family. We have been going since I was a child.” She adds, “Set your intention for your practice and your life and stick to it!”
Dr. McCrindle says, “Having twins was the best thing that could have happened to me in terms of finding balance. I had to let go of this perfectionistic and unrealistic standard I had always set for myself. Perfection is an imperfect goal – impossible for anyone to attain! I had a geology professor who used to say, ‘through chaos, comes clarity,’ and it’s true. I had to embrace the chaos. Being in survival mode with two infants meant I could only do what I could do, and I had to be okay with that. It was a very enlightening time for me. It allowed me to truly be in the moment for perhaps the first time in my life. I had no choice but to accept imperfection and that turned out to be perfect. I think we are all doing our best as parents, and accepting where we are at works wonders.”
Her tips for successfully finding balance are:
- Have fun and rediscover what it means to play in both work and life – it drives passion.
- Do not procrastinate – time is gold. Get what needs doing done so you can free up time to be fully present wherever you are.
- Have a sense of humor.
- Know you are doing your best and that is enough.
- Be organized and plan ahead where you can, but be flexible, open, and “go with it” – sometimes you end up in a better place than you could ever have imagined.
- Look to your children as the best teachers you will ever come across – they are so full of optimism, joy, mindfulness, and love.
- Don’t lose sight of your love for what you do – when you are at work, immerse yourself and be fully present and do the same at home. The two are not at odds. In fact, family was one of the greatest gifts to my career and practice style – I have matured and grown immensely from the experience and continue to do so.
- Do what works for you and not others – there is a lot of insecurity in parenting. Try not to be threatened by others doing things differently than you. Everyone is doing their best and figuring it out as they go along. As soon as one thing is figured out, a new challenge comes along. Embrace this – it never gets boring!
- Say no to guilt – guilt is a choice, don’t make it!
Dr. Peddle says, “Ask for help, get comfortable with saying no, and know that a happy parent means a happy family. Manage your expectations about what balance means and reflect on the privileges you hold that allow you to seek balance.”
About finding balance, she adds, “It is doable, but you need to cut yourself some slack. Balance might be in the big picture for a while – like working six days a week so that you can save up and take a longer maternity leave later. Or it might mean taking care of yourself and/or your family’s needs in the short term and knowing that there will always be more time to work later. You need to find what works for you.”
Finding balance is different for every ND and for every situation, but as these experts have demonstrated, there’s always a way to manage a successful professional life and a happy personal life. If you’d like to take your first step towards becoming an ND, request information to find the school that’s right for you.
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