Throughout my over twenty years as a physician, there have been times where I felt I would be better suited in a different line of work: that of a fireman. The reason being is I am constantly putting out fires. As soon as my cell phone turns on, or the clinic doors open, there are often nonstop needs for my attention.
As physicians have strains on our time, our own obligations fall by the way inside. As physicians, we have done a poor job at valuing our time. It is no wonder we are considered to have one of the highest job dissatisfaction rates in the country.
So what is there to do? Some seasoned doctors lament they should have chosen a different specialty, one that would offer a better work-life balance.
Looking back, for some of my medical school classmates, it seems picking a specialty was done on a whim. "I picked ER, because of that show on TV," or "It gives me an adrenaline rush," and "Everyone knows that anesthesiologists make the most money," or "Radiologists get to go home at 4pm," were responses. Are these true indicators on how a physician picks his or her specialty?
A quick review of online medical school forums suggest perceptions may have not changed much. Questions like, "What specialty gives you the most money?" And "Can I work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job as an internist?" are common.
We all know that physician burnout is at an all-time high. While we don't have access to a time machine to change our third year decisions, physicians may have more flexibility than you think. Due to the nationwide physician storage, doctors have options on how they want to practice. Not only can physicians work in a hospital or clinic, but with the advent of telemedicine, they can work from home. As for take-home revenue, a recent survey by Monster.com suggests that job satisfaction has nothing to do with income. According to the survey, who you interact with regularly is the strongest indicator of job satisfaction, more than both pay and benefits.
When you get down to it, a physician's happiness is due to those people they interact with every day: the patient population.
My first job out of residency, I inherited a number of patients who were already on multiple medications for their chronic conditions. It was difficult for me to feel that I made a difference for those who were on long-term drug therapy and were not motivated to change their situation. My successes were patients who were proactive, and had a driving desire to get better.
When I made the decision to start my own practice, I focused a significant portion of it on medical weight loss. Seeing someone lose twenty or thirty pounds, improve their health, and get off chronic medications is something the patient and I both cherish. I also enjoy teaching, and working with training nurses and interns is another part of my daily routine that I enjoy.
Changing your patient focus alone may not be enough. Realize that there are many jobs available out there that may give you lifestyle advantages you may not have known. Physicians who recognize they are in an envious position and have more control than once thought, may have the fortitude to craft their ideal career.