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unhappy docs??

12 years 8 months ago #12559 by romd
I didn't hate my job... until it became so demanding that one day I realized I no longer had a life outside of work. My husband is in the same field and all we talked about was work. The rest of the time I was just too exhausted to talk, much less play or anything else.

I guess it all depends on what your expectations are for your life. I always expected that, after med school, residency, and fellowship, I would have a normal attending job and a decent family life. It was disappointing to realize that I simply traded one boss (studying/working all the time during training) for another (never-ending responsibities as an attending, too many patients, too much paperwork, too much politics, etc. etc.).

Before choosing the medical route, you must know that medicine is MORE than a FT job. That is, FT as a doctor is not 40 hours/week; don't let anyone tell you otherwise! Depending on what field you're in, you could easily work twice that, plus call, plus CMEs, plus reading journals... Often that's during nights and weekends, on your own time.

Also, take a look at what kind of personality you have. I know of many lousy docs who don't care so much about listening to patients (as a nurse, you're probably the opposite of that), often seem careless in their patient care and frequently miss things, but they always get done on time and go home early. The best doctors are a fine balance of caring and dedication, tempered with an ability to let things go when it's time. By that, I mean that you have to really enjoy patient care (I did), be detail-oriented enough to catch subtle findings and remember the little things (I was), but also be able to know when to let go, go home to your family, and forget about your patients, until the next day (my failure). I LOVED patient care, but I found it difficult to not be there for my patients whenever they needed me.

I've been a stay-at-home mom for 15 months now. The qualities that made me a good doctor then also makes me a good mom now. I realize that my personality is such that I'm not a great multi-tasker (even though I did it all of my life); I'd much rather take one task at a time, devote myself to doing it well, and enjoy the process. I LOVE being able to devote myself to caring for my family and myself, rather than having to split myself between work and family, being over-stressed about both, not being able to give 100% to either, and feeling guilty for not being there for one or the other. Now I'm truly happy!

So, to answer your question - Yes, I loved being a physician, but only when that was my priority, and I had no other demands on my time and energy. Now that I do - my gorgeous 15-month-old boy, I've realized that there's no way I can have both. Not the way I would want them to be.

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12 years 8 months ago #12560 by AnnaM
Agree with drheidi and romd. I used to love my job in primary care, but the paperwork and stress got to be too much for me. Of course, it didn't help that I was working in a university system with all of the politics that go with that. The other thing to keep in mind is that it has become almost inevitable that anyone who goes into medicine will be sued at some point in their career. I really don't know any doctors who haven't been except for new residency grads, and some of them have even been sued. My one lawsuit (completely without merit and I was eventually dropped) was one of the big factors in my decision to shift gears.

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12 years 8 months ago #12561 by 1phalene
Congratulations on your admission to medical school.
I am (or was) a pediatrician for 20 years. I am no longer practicing and have been much healthier and happier.
I needed to move in with my elderly mother to care for her and find this less stressful than practice. Go figure.
If you do not absolutly love, live breath health care and cannot see yourself doing anything else than MD work, if you are that obsessed, go for it. If I were to do it again....I would have gone for a masters/nurse practicioner degree or a pharmacy degree or a physical therapy degree. Half the years of schooling and all the PNPs I ever worked with did 90% of the stuff I did in the office and had much less of the more stressfull aspects (really sick, really unstable patients).
They seemed quite happy with their choice.

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12 years 8 months ago #12562 by rina33
I just want to add my two cents that I think it depends a lot on what specialty you choose. It sounds like a lot of the above women were in primary care and rather unhappy with it. There are many other fields of medicine- some of which offer a better lifestyle. They have to be fields you really love though (ie, don't choose a field just for the hours). As you go through medical school, just try your best to find a field that combines both a love for the specialty and a lifestyle that might be (slightly) more family-friendly. I do think you can be fulfilled in the end! However, that's with the caveat that I just finished med school and haven't yet started residency, so take it for what it's worth...

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12 years 8 months ago #12563 by mom1st
Note that romd above was working in radiation oncology per her profile...not exactly primary care.

Certainly I feel primary care can offer challenges in the work/family balance arena (I know--I'm FP), BUT by no means is the conflict limited to one particular field of medicine. Your specialty, your particular job, your personality, your family needs and obligations, your spouse's occupation, your job location, your colleagues and peers, your employer and staff, insurance companies....all of these factors contribute to one's job satisfaction. And, not all of these can be considered, determined or predicted before you choose your specialty.

I can soooo relate to romd's comments. I am FP, out of residency for 4 years and now finally deciding to stay home after baby #3. I will do some occasional urgent care, but I don't see myself ever going back to a clinic/hospital environment.

When it was just me to focus on, I was quite content and thrilled about medicine. When I married my physician hubby in med school, our very similar lives meshed well and I was still ok. But when we had our first child, I knew my calling was to be his mother, and medicine was no longer my passion--my family instead became my focus.

However, I stayed in medicine but came to resent the very long hours and constant demands of residency and work. I once thrived in that type of environment, but it eventually became suffocating. I was told once in med school that women docs can't have the best of both worlds; either your family or your work will suffer. Idealistic me thought he was a sexist idiot at the time; now I know he was pretty wise. I would add that the other factor which is also affected by trying to balance both roles well is one's self. For a while, I was still exceptional at my job and still balancing my home life (although I was not with my child enough)...but I was totally sacrificing myself. I never had a moment to read a book, I couldn't even find a minute to file my nails. I didn't get enough sleep, I was becoming unhappy and unfulfilled. I took care of everyone but myself.

I know I was an excelllent physician and cared a great deal for my patients. When they left my office, I made sure that not only were their concerns addressed, but they also left feeling cared for and valued. Medicine was my way of serving others. I was (and am) also detail oriented, very disciplined, and extremely conscientious; while great qualities to have, it made it difficult to leave my job behind at the end of the day. I was always thinking about a particular patient, considering if I had missed anything, contemplating my work day. I was working PT, by the way, but PT in medicine is like FT in other jobs. Cutting back your hours is not the holy grail of fulfillment for physician moms.

As I took on both roles--mom and doc--my job did suffer, at least in my opinion. I couldn't keep up with journals, and CME was a challenge. While I was still performing as a good physician, I was becoming more uncomfortable with myself in my physician role. I felt I could not give the 110% anymore, and I would never be happy with just being an ok doc.

At the same time, I am not one of those mothers who is ok with taking a child to daycare or leaving him with someone else. I love being with my kids, and leaving them in childcare was always a terribly heart-wrenching experience for me. Some people are totally ok with leaving their little ones; for me, it was horrible and devastating every time.

I guess as I took on both roles, I sacrificed myself, refused to sacrifice my family, but did slowly see my world in medicine become affected. Although I consciously chose to keep my family first, I also tried to hang on to medicine as best as I could. But I couldn't be all to everyone, and in my opinion, I couldn't be enough in the medical field.

So I am now home, am truly happy, and each morning I wake up with the same giddy feeling you'd get when you found out you had a snow day from school. My kids are happier, I enjoy every minute and take nothing for granted, our home is peaceful, and my hubby is a better and more productive doctor as the chaos is gone.

If you want to do medicine, do it. Just put the idealistic, rose-colored glasses away. Realize you are going to sacrifice a lot to reach the goal (I wonder what ever happened to my 20's...seems like I totally missed that part of my life.) Be realistic and open-minded, and consider you may want to change your path someday, and THAT IS OK. We physicians may appear to be dream-crushers to many pre-meds, but we know the reality of medicine. Approach it with your eyes open. I know a lot of other physician moms who wish they could be home with their kids but cannot; they provide the main income for their families and can't afford to quit.

Like romd, medicine was great when that was my everything, but I too cannot give both worlds my undivided attention to the level that I find acceptable. I am choosing my family at this time and am happy with that choice.

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12 years 8 months ago #12564 by Conflicted
My 5 closest friends from med school are all women. Among us, there are 2 cardiologists, 3 internists, and 1 partially trained surgeon who went to industry for lifestyle reasons. All of us are happily married and working full time - all of us have full time working professional husbands (5/6 are MDs as as well). None of us regret choosing medicine as a career. One friend ran a marathon last and is about to take a trip around the world for a year. Another just got back from Turkey with money that her husband won on a TV game show. I have attended all of their weddings in mostly exotic destinations (all we could all afford the trips). 3 of us have children and 3 do not. We are 7 years out of medical school.

My friends are amazing and a joy to spend time with - medical school was worth it just to meet them. All of us have angst about the right work/life balance. However, I feel lucky to be around these women who I consider "healthy strivers" - people who have high but realistic goals about what they want to do with life. I think that primary care is a tougher road that fields with procedures and the two of us who are doing primary care type work seem least satisfied. It is hard to separate money from satisfaction, but it is not impossible!

I think that going to medical school was a great choice for me.

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