A life-work balance beyond surgery
Achieving a work-life balance can be difficult for anyone in a high paced, professional career. Now turn that dial up to 10, and you’ll have Nicholas Zyromski’s reality. For the surgeon, educator, musician, husband, and father of six, life is a balancing act. But according to Zyromski, MD, it’s important to put that reality into perspective.
“Recognizing that you can’t do everything all the time is important. That’s one of the lessons that I’ve learned,” said Zyromski, who with wife, Jennifer, has six children ages three to 13 years old. “You can have everything, but you can’t have it all at the same time—that’s something my wife says. You have to figure out a combination of working efficiently and being realistic about what you want to accomplish.”
No matter how busy his life gets, Zyromski, a professor of surgery in the Department of Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine, still finds time for the things he is passionate about, including his music career. Zyromski provides vocals and plays guitar and mandolin for his band, which has a folksy, bluesy sound and can include a brass instrument and percussion. Zyromski has released three albums, “The Great Divide” in 2001, “Too Many Songs” in 2015 and “What’s Next” in 2018 and will sometimes collaborate with other local Indianapolis musicians.
“I love creating new music. I love playing with other people. It’s such an exchange of ideas,” Zyromski said. “Musicians are some of the coolest people I know. They have a different take on the world than most of us, and certainly a different take than anybody in medicine.”
Some of the music that Zyromski writes and performs comes from his experiences as a surgeon. Many of his lyrics focus on life as he is living and seeing it, the death he may witness or experience as well as helping people manage their health. Representing all aspects of the human interaction of medicine, his music also allows him to connect on a different level with those he is teaching and mentoring.
“From time to time I have a surgery resident jam session, where people will come over to my house, my basement, and hang out and play a little bit. That’s a connection from the educational perspective of a teacher and a student that levels the playing field,” Zyromski said. “It gets people out into a community environment.”
Outside of surgery and music, Zyromski juggles his hectic family life with his wife, Jennifer, who is also a surgeon practicing medicine at River View Hospital in Noblesville. He credits his ability to manage his family life to help— help that he gets from his family, including his mother and father.
“We don’t live on an island. Look for guidance from people who have been there before—mentors, someone you admire and ask them for help and guidance,” Zyromski said, asserting the important role passion plays in juggling a busy lifestyle. “I think the secret is to pick something that you love. The fundamental to this whole issue of work-life balance is that I love everything I do.”
According to Zyromski, that love extends to the interactions he has with residents in the Department of Surgery—allowing the positive interactions to fuel his day-to-day routine.
“I love interacting with the residents—I love the technical challenge, and I love teaching,” Zyromski said. “Seeing residents learn over the years is incredibly rewarding—seeing a young doctor start to learn and then see them become a successful independent surgeon. It’s a huge amount of work, but it’s enjoyable.”