There are many women physicians whose life may echo the women above. Some days you could have a day like Dr. I. Dealist and other days will be more like Dr. R. Eality. The question for many is "would you go into medicine again if you had the choice?" Surveys vary in their results, some suggest that 10% or as high as 30% would leave the professional altogether if they could.
This topic was recently discussed in our forums, and things got very heated. Burned-out physicians told stories of negativity and reality. Premeds and medical students read in dismay and they faced their 'reality check' from women further along their medical career.
Dissatisfied physicians offered this advice to optimistic premeds:
- Don't go into medicine for the money - you may be disappointed.
- If you question whether medicine is or isn't for you then don't do it!
- If you can think of doing any other career - do it!
- It's impossible to predict how you will feel about practicing medicine until you're actually doing it. Somewhat like trying to imagine how much your life will change when you have a baby.
- Listen and learn from others who have gone before you.
But what causes this dissatisfaction? Some members said that it is because women still imagine themselves being the "superwoman", juggling kids, career, spouses and family all at the same time. "I appreciate everyone's honesty. We need more of that in order to trash the myth that we women are supposed to be mothers, homemakers, wives, and career builders while making it look fun and easy", said one member. At least one ball will get dropped at one time or another. The question is, which ball are you going to bend down and pick up, and then how do you get them all juggling again!
"I planned on trying to have it all. I wanted to have a career- never needing to depend on anyone for my livelihood. I spent all my free time studying for one thing after another- physics quiz; biochemistry test; MCAT; anatomy; pharmacology; FLEX; in-house exams; Board exams. I mean ENOUGH already! But I made it. I am now a board certified Family physician! But wait, I don't really practice medicine. I fill out forms for HMOs to provide medications for my patients. I refill prescriptions for medications that really don't make patients better, just prolongs life a little, so they may get another more horrible disease like Alzheimer's", says one physician.
She continues, "Well between spending hours at paperwork & trying to have a meaningful relationship & keep the bathrooms clean, and going to the grocery store, and finally getting to bed, I realize that I REALLY CAN NOT DO IT ALL!!! It is not possible!"
Women entering medicine at a later age may find that this can help their experiences later on, especially those who had come from other challenging professional backgrounds.
Physicians who had found fulfillment and satisfaction from their careers all seemed to have been open to specialties that they might otherwise have overlooked as a medical student. They might have happened to find a specialty by chance. Some even changed midway through residency. Having a medical degree also makes you eligible for other interesting and well paid jobs, such as pharmaceuticals, research and even software development. So, there may be something there for everyone, even if it does mean leaving medicine altogether. As one member says "...be happy or find your happiness."
What are your thoughts? Are you an idealist or realist? What can you add to this discussion? Join us in the forums!