it Time for You to Take a Sabbatical?
this: spending a year in southern France writing that book that's been
rolling around in your head; spending nine months completing a
certificate program in acupuncture and Chinese medicine; traveling
around the world in 80 days with your spouse and children; staying
home and watching Oprah while you paint watercolor still life;
volunteering with Doctors Without Borders and providing medical
services in Indonesia.
this a fantasy that that interests you?
taking a sabbatical may be a real proposition for those physicians in
Academia, for many solo physicians, physicians in small or medium
group practices, or physician leaders, taking 3, 6, 9 or 12 months
"off" would seem to be a ridiculous notion.
be open to the magic of a sabbatical and how you can craft your own
a Sabbatical Beckons, Follow!
definition of sabbatical is this: taking time off to enrich your
life. And it need not be a whole year, nor should it wait seven
years to happen.
is my story of sabbatical. I have lived in the Seattle area for
23 years, but in 2002-2003, my family (my husband and 2 kids, age 10
and 12 at the time) spent the school year in New Mexico. New
Mexico is where I was born, raised, and where my extended family lives
(parents, siblings, plus about 300+ cousins, aunts, uncles etc).
After being in Seattle for 20+ years since doing my Internal Medicine
residency at the University of Washington, I had only been back home
for annual 1 or 2 week visits. The summer of 2002 I had a flash
of insight: I MUST spend the year here and see my parents and
siblings every week. It was now or never.
that August we packed up just enough "stuff" in our
mini-van, drove across four states, and moved into a small 3-bedroom
home. We enrolled our kids to the local public school. My
husband commuted every two weeks from Seattle.
enrichment was beyond words. Little things like going to Home
Depot with my Dad (he was in the hardware business), coloring my mom's
hair for her because she doesn't like to have it done at the beauty
shop. And big things, like crafting a leadership workshop that
has become one of my most popular offerings. Oh, by the way, I
didn't "stop working" --- I took my computer and business
operations to New Mexico, and my business never skipped a beat.
husband and kids still remember that as our "great family
adventure" and look back fondly at how it enriched us
individually and as a family.
at Sabbatical With New Eyes
you look at sabbatical as "time off to enrich your life,"
then you can creative in how you interpret that.
in February I was feeling mentally weary, and decided it was time for
a short sabbatical. I knew I didn't need a change of
venue, nor a major break in what I was doing. Instead I decided
to stop being so "in my head." I took a 3-month break
from aspiring, striving, analyzing, and being ever so vigilant about
trying to figure out my life and destiny. In early June I attended a
weekend spiritual retreat which was a wonderful capstone to my 3-month
emerged refreshed, renewed and more at peace with all things in my
life. I incorporated some new rituals in my weekly routine to
keep me more centered. For example, I turn off my email from
Friday evening until Sunday morning. That may seem silly to some
of you, but it's a huge feat for someone who is tethered to their
Tips for Taking YOUR Sabbatical
hope I've piqued your interest in taking a sabbatical--in whatever way
it works out for you. Keep these points in mind:
Life is short; get a locum or one of your partners to cover for you
during your absence. The enrichment you'll feel will
far outweigh any monetary shortfall you fear you'll
Consider the "mental break" approach. For 6
months, stop doing something you find "obligatory" or
burdensome. Hire someone to sort through you mail, and toss out the
junk mailings, for example. Read only trashy novels. As soon as
they arrive, recycle your Time, Newsweek, Wallstreet Journal,
New England Journal, and JAMA.
Find a single weekly ritual that works as a "refresh"
button, or plugs you into a heart-space, spiritual mode. Turn
off your computer on Saturday or Sunday. Take an hour and listen to
meditation and relaxation tapes on Friday after work. Take your sports
car out for a top-down drive one evening a week. Whatever gets
you out of your head.
would love to hear your stories of sabbatical. Email me and I'll
publish them in an upcoming Daring Doctors issue. Our job is to
inspire our members; I know many of you have stories that can inspire
R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE is an executive coach and business
consultant. She is president of The Gaillour Group and director
of Creative Strategies in Physician Leadership. Dr. Gaillour is
a professional speaker on healthcare leadership, cultural change
and physician career development.
can be reached at (888) 562-7289 or email@example.com