I’m amazed at how frequent this discussion comes up in casual conversations. It usually starts with “I’m tired of all the administrative red tape”, “I have no control over my patients”, “the patient expectations are unrealistic”, or “I can’t afford to keep my practice going”.
My question to you is, “do you really want to change your career, quit medicine, or simply re-define your priorities?”
You’re not alone. Even the best physicians out there struggle with this at some time in their careers. It’s a challenge because as you look back at all that you’ve invested into your career, you don’t want to let anyone down, especially yourself. Family and financial obligations prevent many of you from even considering another option. College education for the kids, a mortgage for that new home, healthcare issues, and an unstable economy make it even more difficult to even consider a career change.
I struggled with the same concerns. I took some time to weigh all the pro’s and con’s, talked to my closest friends, and in the end made my choice to taper out of medicine. It was a hard decision that required a change in mindset, our financial budget, and motivation to find those things that would bring me pleasure and fulfillment. While I miss the ER, I have found balance in my life and I’m re-energized to seek new learning experiences, new people, and a new career.
Find the light within you that guides you down the path of fulfillment and joy for your family but most importantly, for yourself.
It sometimes starts with difficulty sleeping as your schedule rotates from days to nights back to days. You find yourself just as tired after six to eight hours of sleep as your are with four hours of sleep. Eating gets to be a chore so you raid the refrigerator grabbing something quick and probably high in calories or worse yet, fat. The drive to work seems like a drudgery. Then, when you’ve survived the commute to work without an episode of road rage, your partner starts your shift off with “remember that patient you sent home last night with chest pain?” With your pulse racing and as that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach starts to grind, you notice the paramedics coming down the hallway with your next patient and you sneer at the guys who just six months ago probably saved your life by helping you restrain a violent patient.
Does this sound familiar? Hopefully not, but if it does then it may be time to pause and re-asses your priorities. The best time to change direction is before you crash.
The internet is gorged with advice on how to “prevent physician burnout” but I believe it’s not that easy. It requires a listening ear that can hear the subtleties and pick up the body language that gauge the help you need. Your spouse, partner, or best friend might be able to help. I found having someone who’s been through the experience and can listen with empathy is the best person to have. Take the time to explore your options before you make a drastic change. Especially take time to find the right person to help you through it.