11/16/2016 -with edits
Technically, I just gave notice. But it’s official, this will be my last full-time position as a traditional practicing physician.
There are multiple reasons why I’m leaving. When people ask what I don’t like about it, it’s almost easier to discuss what I still like, because it’s a much shorter list.
Instead, I rattle off a couple of random reasons related to whatever is annoying me at the moment. It could be my still exorbitant loan balance or the latest annoying inefficiency at the hospital that day. The exchange usually leaves me feeling that the person thinks I’m whiny or lazy, neither of which is true.
I mostly feel bad because after answering this question for the last 13 years I’ve been in (and disliked) medicine, I sense that people want to believe that their physicians love their jobs. As if we are superhumans who don’t have bad days or favorite patients or make mistakes.
And here’s little ‘ol me reminding people that if their doctor is grumpy, it might be because they hate them!
What I like about medicine
(Note the absence of the word love in the above heading.)
Burnout is a serious issue that happens in many fields, not just medicine. I’m still all up in it, and it leaves me feeling that the remaining few things I still enjoy are trite.
For instance, I like working with indigent patient populations. It’s a phrase I’ve rattled off in countless interviews at hospitals I didn’t even want to work at because I never really liked being a doc but it happens to be true.
A lot of people in this country think people of low socioeconomic status deserve worse care. They would never agree with this phrasing but the legislation these voters and congresspersons vote for/against indicates otherwise.
Hospitals with smaller budgets and profit margins typically draw less qualified or competent physicians. (The many exceptions to this are complicated and beyond the scope and relevance of this post.) I am a competent doctor who actually cares about people so I feel good working at a hospital in an underserved community.
Also, the cases at these hospitals are more interesting. This may sound morbid but the weirder the pathology or disease, the more interesting the case is to me.
Generally, of course, I hope scans are normal because I want people to be healthy, but it’s insanely boring. Imagine a cashier ringing up only juice cartons over and over, day after day, month after month, year after year. Boring right? Well, that’s the way it is in medicine, too.
One way to fix this is to only have people who are actually sick come to the hospital which isn’t impossible but again, the nuances of why that doesn’t occur and how to facilitate it are beyond the scope of this post.
Hmmm, what else? I like anatomy and physiology (or the way the body works), which is part of why I got into medicine.
And then there is the money factor. I thought that when I started making a huge salary, that I would feel ‘rich’. Newsflash—I didn’t. But being able to afford more was great, especially on travel and housing.
There is a difference between financial stability, financial independence, and feeling rich or wealthy. Sometimes spending makes you feel wealthy, but if only you had a little more, you could see X, buy Y, or travel to Z. Or you so you think.
I did gain a measure of financial stability but even that doesn’t exist without job stability, and true job stability is its own illusion, to be addressed in another post. Plus, with my loans and negative net worth, financial independence never happened.
So that’s what I liked! It doesn’t seem particularly positive but that’s my truth. As I gain some distance from the field, perhaps I will remember (or even miss) more elements. Or not.
Read the next installment to hear why I got into medicine in the first place and some of the reasons why I dislike it.