We had the good fortune of connecting with Adrienne Martinez-Hollingsworth, PhD, MSN, RN, PHN and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Adrienne, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
As an academic researcher studying burnout, I get this question a lot. Do I practice what I preach? How is my work-life balance? Luckily, I have access to validated measures that allow me a true picture of how “burned-out” I am at any given moment. The Wellbeing Index, for example, measures burnout across six realms, one of which is “work-life balance”.
So, how *am* I doing? Turns out badly. Very BADLY, especially in this particular aspect of wellbeing. But I would respond with this: Should we continue to see the ability to compartmentalize our daily life as a beneficial practice? Should we value the ability to “shut-down” the part of our brain that is committed to whatever employment-based activity will consume one-third of our time on earth (US Dept. of Labor, 2019)?
For me, my identity as a researcher, health equity activist, and mentor of historically under-represented students in health professions runs deep. It doesn’t turn off when I close my email tab. It doesn’t fall away when I sign off Zoom meetings. I eat with it, as I get my groceries delivered (during the pandemic) to protect against exposure to Covid-19; I shower with it, as I have access to unlimited hot water; and I sleep with it as I close my eyes, confident in my safety when I am at my most vulnerable. In short- I am aware every day, almost constantly, of the privilege my educational and economic status have afforded me. A big part of that is recognizing how rare my position is for a Latina woman in the US.
This perpetual awareness of my privilege hinges on a commitment to my work. If I believe that my academic work addressing health disparities is legitimate, that structural racism is a true threat that must be overcome, then I must have this constant “work-life-balance-destroying” awareness. It reminds me that, though I come from a somewhat humble background, I can no longer truly represent that group because I swim through my own privilege daily. To honorably represent the experiences and perspectives of the people I hope to help, I must stay connected with them through intentional, inclusive practices and wide-eyed awareness of my own positioning.
So, my work-life balance? Terrible. And it gets worse the more I learn about the world, and myself. But I am not a passive participant in this process, I value my ability to keep my analytic brain turned on (even when I’m off duty). I believe that committing to remaining “Adrienne the researcher” across my social interactions reflects my dedication to creating and refining systems (social, educational, health, infrastructure) with data gleaned from real-life experiences and human connections.
But am I unusual in this? In general, salaried US workers do approximately one-quarter (26%) of their work outside of “normal working hours”, while only about one-third say they don’t work on the weekends (MacKay, 2019). Clearly, I’m not alone. My hope is that these compatriots are spending that time doing something meaningful, or deeply personal to them. That they are using the finite time and energy we are given on earth in a way that makes the whole concept of “work-life balance” outmoded, outdated, or maybe just irrelevant. My work *is* my life, because my life is about how my identity influences my contribution to the world. If we shift the definition of “work-life balance” to include and credit the mental burden (and joy) of self-awareness, I suspect many people would feel the same.
Work-Life Balance: Very Poor
Overall Satisfaction: Highest Grade Possible
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In addition to my academic focus on health disparities as a researcher, I have been fortunate to live in a city with a long tradition of public art, specifically murals, that goes back to the days of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a part of the American New Deal. In the 1930s and 40s, WPA artists created murals that truly influenced the character of LA, and have become a backdrop and first introduction to activism for many of us that grew up here. Mexican muralists, like Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros used murals to get people to consider social and systemic constructs that underlie the lack of equity, justice and freedom in our communities. Modern muralists in LA, notably, Judy Baca, similarly used murals to convey a *people’s* history of the area, which includes the ugly realities of redlining and associated economic, and educational disenfranchisement, as well as the excessive prosecution/incarceration of the original inhabitants of this land. In my work, murals have become a way for me to connect with local communities, and help residents share their stories through visual depictions of daily life or aspirational images that reflect their hopes. I often work in areas with substantial industrial blight or beset by historic divestment, so murals become a way of giving back to the community by helping residents express their pride, while beautifying their neighborhoods in a way that acknowledges the cultural richness of these often overlooked spaces.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Check out Olvera Street! It is the birthplace of the city of LA. Olvera Street has been the main square of the city since the early 1820s, when California was still part of Mexico. There are historic buildings, including adobe and victorian houses that give you a glimpse of life at the turn of the century, and many fantastic eateries (from walk-up taquerias to sit down formal restaurants). Roving mariaches (musicians) dressed in traditional charro outfits walk through and enter restaurants to entertain visitors. (Pro-tip: ask for “Guantanamera”!) Nearby, within decent walking distance, is Little Tokyo, the Arts District, Grand Park, Chinatown, the new Disney Concert Hall, MOCA…many many other sites! Within about 2 sq. miles you can get a truly unique and diverse historical, cultural (and foodie!) view of the city.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to thank the men and women who participate in my academic research and share their experiences as health care providers, or patients living with chronic, multi-realm illness. I would also like to thank the UCLA National Clinician Scholars Program, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and collaborators at Stanford University, Cedars Sinai Medical Center and AltaMed for their ongoing interest and support.
Finally, I would like to thank my husband and daughter for their constant patience with me as a write manuscripts on Saturdays and take zoom meetings at 10pm.