Podcast: This doctor was working 105 hours a week. Until she fainted in the operating theatre.

Thanks to our brand partner, Woolworths


Dr Simone Ryan was working 105 rostered hours a week in surgery. Until the moment she worked so hard she became the patient.

She was a classic over-achiever – representing Australia in basketball, gaining the Sydney University medal in medicine and working more than 100 hours a week, plus being on call, as a doctor in a prominent Sydney hospital.

“I was stuffed, actually. I was really tired, run-down,” she says. But being the driven daughter of hard-working parents, she “just kept working”.

One day, exhausted, she called in sick to work.

“What’s wrong with you?” her boss asked.

“I said, ‘Nothing’s ‘wrong’ with me, I’m just not fit for work today.’ They were my exact words, which still give me shivers up my spine,” Dr Ryan says.

Image via iStock.

“I said, ‘We’ve got a busy day. I’m not capable of doing eight bypass grafts today. I’m going to have the day off.’

“Ultimately, I got up, got dressed and went to work, just ridden with guilt.”

And, on her second case of the day (a hip replacement), she had a seizure in the operating theatre.

“I fainted, face-planted from six-foot-one height, and broke my nose, sliced my face open, woke up in the emergency department and resigned at that point… on the back of my observation chart, actually.

“I had every test known to man and all was normal. I was just knackered.”

Now, the entrepreneur, CEO and mum to a five-year-old says has completely revamped her life.

She has turned her problem into her passion, managing a company that helps workplaces balance the health of their employees.


One Life, Live It now provides corporate wellness programs for 30% of Australia’s ASX-listed companies, including the likes of Qantas, Jetstar and Sydney Water.

“I thought if this is happening to me and I’m really in-tune with this, who in-God’s-name else is this happening to?” Dr Ryan said.

She says she introduced objective mental health screening for all employees into her programs and more than 37 per cent of the those tested qualify to see clinical psychologists for anxiety, depression or stress.

Dr Ryan dishes out her best advice for anyone who feels like they are drowning in the speed, clutter, and frantic pace of life.

She says prioritising the really important things and outsourcing other tasks, keeping to routines, a Sunday spent cooking for the week and squeezing in exercise are the keys to how she does it all.

For more tips, you can listen to the full podcast episode here:

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