Protecting Family Well-Being Through Social Connectivity and Time Management


Families are a physician's core source of support. Making time to nurture family connections is crucial to keeping that support system strong.

Fam Pract Manag. 2020 May-June;27(3):13-18.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

Jordan was a third-year resident, in the middle of her emergency department rotation, when she discovered she was pregnant. She forwarded her positive test result to her husband, John, a physician in the same hospital system. Telling him via text was a bit impersonal, but their shifts overlapped and she couldn't wait. She knew it would make his day.

John was a decade older, had been married once before, and was eager to start a family. He came from a long line of physicians; both his parents were doctors. He was confident his second marriage would succeed where his first had failed, primarily because Jordan was a physician and she would understand the demands of the profession.

Jordan was the first doctor in her family. She was also excited to start a family but worried about balancing multiple roles as mother, spouse, and doctor. Her parents had always put family first, and her mother was a homemaker. She remembered the dinner table of her childhood as the site of critical conversations — where family traditions were passed on, favorite colors identified, secret crushes revealed, ambitions embraced, fears faced, and the highs and lows of each day discussed. Jordan wanted the same thing for her own children. She envisioned her workload and autonomy improving after residency and convinced herself that if she put in more hours now, she would have time for family later.

Of course, work-life balance didn't turn out to be that simple.

Jordan and I are friends — both family physicians with similar stories. We watched each other's children grow up and learned from each other. This article includes lessons we've gathered over the years about protecting quality time for family — especially “table time.”


  • Family well-being is important for physicians personally and professionally, as the family is a key source of support for those in the demanding field of medicine.

  • Research is just beginning to determine the effect of excess “screen time” on family connections.

  • Tracking hours with a 24/7 time log creates a detailed accounting of how time is spent, which is helpful in determining which priorities are getting sufficient attention and which are getting short shrift.


Humans are social creatures, and social health is a core part of overall wellness. Family well-being is critical to the health of individual family members and, conversely, personal health fosters family well-being. Family is our most important team.

Teams rely on each other for support, and relationships are strengthened when team members spend time together. But the time demands of practicing medicine can be particularly


Dr. Pipas is a family physician and Professor of Community and Family Medicine, The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and the Department of Medical Education at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. She is the author of A Doctor's Dozen: 12 Strategies for Personal Health and a Culture of Wellness and has been recognized as a leader in wellness, education, research, and clinical care. Her recent awards include the 2019 Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Humanism Award and the 2019 Family Medicine Education Consortium This We Believe Award. Dr. Pipas serves as the chief wellness officer for CaseNetwork.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.


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5. Shanafelt TD, Hasan O, Dyrbye LN, et al. Changes in burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance in physicians and the general U.S. working population between 2011 and 2014. Mayo Clinic Proc. 2015;90(12):1600–1613.

6. Belar CD, Nordal KC, Ballard DW, et al. Stress in America 2017: Technology and Social Media. American Psychological Association; 2017. Accessed April 1, 2020.

7. Bell C. Study: millennials love smartphones. Bankrate. Sept. 24, 2014. Accessed April 1, 2020.

8. Moeller SD, Powers E, Roberts J. “The World Unplugged” and “24 Hours Without Media”: media literacy to develop self-awareness regarding media. Scientific Journal of Media Education. 2012;39:45–52.


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