Before even completing her first year in practice, Nishan Pressley, OD, who also goes by Dr. Nish, felt the burnout. She always had a passion for being the best she could be as an optometrist, earning an undergrad degree in biology and pre-med from Norfolk State University in Virginia. She was the first African American to be accepted into and to have graduated from Salus University’s three-year program, but she felt her passion depleting as she was just entering the workforce after her 2019 graduation.
She worked at an MD/OD private office for more than two years, but it took less than half that time for her to feel like she was losing steam. “I was already so tired,” Dr. Pressley says. “I knew I had a passion for helping people, especially providing preventive eye care in the Black community, but I was already questioning my choice in the profession.” She was working late, taking charts home and felt overworked and underpaid. She was losing her passion and stopped spending time on self-care.
Now, she’s taking her own health and happiness into her own hands. As an independent contractor, she can set her own schedule and makes sure to build self-care into her busy schedule of caring for others. “I had to make the choice to do what was best for me,” she says.
She no longer wakes up “at the crack of dawn.” On most mornings, her days start at 9 or 10. Having just one extra hour in the morning has made a “huge difference” in the way she starts her day, she says. “I’m still a morning person, but I’m not waking up and diving straight into work,” she says. “I can hit the gym, enjoy my coffee and watch the news.”
She sees her last patient by 5 p.m. She primarily works at a LensCrafters location in Altamonte Springs, Florida, where she sees about 20 patients per day. After work, she focuses solely on the latter part of her work-life balance, often spending time with her new husband or doing things that she loves. “I will take the time to schedule a whole self-care day at least every other week,” she says. Whether that’s getting her nails done, a massage or “sitting down to work on a passion project,” finding what you like is key, she says.
“Find a show you enjoy, sleep, eat healthy and get your body moving,” she recommends. “Set responsible boundaries with your place of employment, such as the best time for phone calls and what warrants a call at all. “I don’t take calls at dinner,” she says; it’s necessary for mental well-being.
“Women, especially female ODs, often wear more than one hat: doctor, wife, mother, caretaker… It’s often easy for us to put other people’s needs before our own,” Dr. Pressley says. “At the end of the day, it keeps me focused and makes me a better practitioner.” She says she’s more “on” at work to avoid having to take charts or meetings home, allowing her to relax when she’s off.
“You have to enter with your cup full at the start of each day,” she says. “You can’t pour love and care from an empty cup.”
“Self care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary,” she says.
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To view a previous WO story featuring Dr. Nish, click here.