How physicians can use the new year to rediscover meaning in their careers.
“So, you want to be a doctor?” my pre-med preceptor asked, cocking an eyebrow. “My advice, kid? Don’t do it. Go to business school instead. Anything else.” But I was eighteen, and like most teenagers, I knew better. “He’s just jaded,” I thought. “It won’t be like that for me.”
Thirty years and a global pandemic later, I find myself reflecting more than ever on that conversation. I feel privileged to be a physician, and I love my relationships with my patients (most of the time), but the daily aggravations often feel like ‘death by a thousand paper cuts.’ And even though I’ve escaped much of the reimbursement rat race by converting to direct primary care, I still find myself frustrated daily by nonsensical demands like prior authorizations for generic medications and prolonged peer-to-peer phone calls to get necessary tests approved.
And of course, add COVID-19 into the equation. Even before the pandemic, doctors were reporting high rates of burnout, with almost half making active plans to leave the profession. Tack on more than a year of full hospitals, social isolation, and emotional angst, and some doctors have simply had enough.
But at our first in-person county medical society meeting in nearly two years, I found a balm for my jaded thinking, and it came straight from the Collier County Medical Society’s Physician of the Year, nephrologist Mark Russo, MD. His words of wisdom were just what I needed to hear. See the slideshow above.
Rebekah Bernard MD is a family physician practicing in Fort Myers, FL and the author of How to Be a Rock Star Doctor.