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I am a 27 year old internal medicine resident in Canada struggling through my residency. I have always dreamed of becoming a physician since high school (looking back now I think probably partially because I wanted to prove I could coming from a small farming community and a family where I was the first to even attend university without really having a good idea of what becoming a physician entailed). I worked my butt off through undergrad and medical school. I love my job while I’m at work but I have battled depression and anxiety throughout my residency and find myself miserable at night and in the mornings and having to fight to get myself to the next day.
While all of my feedback for performance in residency has been positive, I constantly worry that I am not performing at the level I should be because of mental health issues. I worry that I do not study enough, that I’m not bright enough, that I don’t measure up, etc. I have taken six months off early in my residency and have since returned to continue the battle. It’s hard for me to sort out if this would happen to me in any job or in medicine in particular. I thrive off the busy environment and the patient encounters and yet find the expectations, hours and politics draining all at the same time. I am at another transition point of considering taking more time off at present.
I worry that if I continue with medicine I may not be able to find the happiness I desire and may eventually completely burn out. I also worry that if I left I would miss or regret it (having not actually entered my own practice). Not to mention the debt I face and the lack of training for any other career. My husband is beyond supportive and we are hoping to start a family soon. I again wonder how I would manage to balance being a health mother and physician.
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It is really heartwarming to find so many doctor friends out there with a similar mindset and guilt laden confused attitude - it tells me that we are not alone in this daily war against ourselves.
I am a 45 year old ophthalmologist outside the US sitting in my balcony late into the night (2-00am)contemplating leaving my private practice for good while my husband,also an ophthalmologist working for an institute, and my son are sleeping in the bedroom.Before going to bed,we had another long sad discussion about carrying on this life and work as a means to survive- we have no other employable skills.A thankless job ,the good old doctor patient relation nonexistent,we are selling our skills as a commodity to sceptical patients,long hours,not much money,no time for family, no respect,constant fear of errors and litigations,never ending skill up gradation- I had a late childbirth,complicated pregnancy,ailing mom and grandmom who recently passed away.Throwing my child in any daycare I could find,taking years off practice to act as a caregiver,working part time,- I did all I could to stay afloat,constantly felt guilty about not doing enough for the career or the family. Today I read your blog and posts and finally am at peace with myself.Thanks!
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First of all I’m so glad I came across this group. I have been battling with the decision to either just suck it up and hope things will get better or just count this as a (very lengthy and expensive) experience in my life and leave medicine.
I am only 24 years old and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to have a medical degree at my age. ( I studied outside the US). But the truth is that I feel sad and miserable and somewhat depressed. Simply put, I’m not happy. I have sought advise from colleagues, friends and family but all I get is negative responses. Most people (mostly my parents) think I’m crazy to leave the potential of earning bucket loads of money in the future. I just want to wake up every morning and feel something I have never experienced in my life… the joy look forward to going to work.
That being said, I have kind of partly made up my mind to leave. Only problem ( the same problem that got me applying to med school in the first place) is that I do not know what to do after leaving medicine.
What are some of the options that I could pursue after leaving medicine? My top on the list is going back to school. I am considering a masters program in healthcare administration if I can find one that will accept me. I have also thought about becoming a PA… although I’m not so keen on this as it is not exactly far from medical practice but it is relatively low stress and I can have a chance at a social life (and eventually time for my future husband and children). Not to mention the decent pay. Plus it probably won’t be that hard considering what med school puts you through.
I’d really love to hear suggestions/ experiences/ stories on options after leaving medicine.
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I am thrilled to have found this page to share my story and current situation. Any friendly advice is welcome!
I am 32, a wife, a mother to a joyful 17 month old, and a first year resident at an OB/GYN residency program living remote (verrrrrry remote) from family and friends. I am the sole mother within the program, and I have no “mom friends” in my remote location. I am eager to grow my family very soon and make my son the great big brother I know he will be. Having said that, the program as a whole - attendings and coresidents alike - are completely appalled at the very thought of my having another child while in residency (not to mention, how the heck am I going to mother two children with a full-time working husband and no help nearby!). When I think about transferring programs to one that might be more supportive, I am personally appalled at myself that I would bother “soldiering on” in a career that I have felt has caused me much suffering and little joy. You see, I know that I went into medicine because it’s what my father, a passionate and successful surgeon, wanted of me. And at the time, single, without children, with the energy of someone in her mid-20’s, and without any other realistic career path in sight, I went for it. It was my lifelong plan B. The costs have finally outweighed the benefits for me, and I’m eager to change my path. I’m having a challenging time processing and planning the following few things: (a) helping my father to understand my perspective and choices (I know, I’m a grown woman and it isn’t about him, but my relationship with him is still important and complicated, and he will be 100% devastated/heartbroken/etc), (b) finding a more personally rewarding path to pursue when I’ve spent so many years trudging down the road to doctorhood, and (c) convincing those on that new rewarding path that I am well-equipped and talented to handle the job at hand when my resume reads like a Guide to Higher Education.
Many thanks for any support and words of encouragement this community can offer!
Gosh that is a big question and the answer is yes on both counts. I do know of young doctors leaving (some who even chose not to finish residency), and yes, there are many ways to use MD skills that do not require you to practice medicine. I have a lot of podcast interviews with physicians entrepreneurs (in my Conversations with Trailblazers category) on my other website, The Entrepreneurial MD at http://www.entrepreneurialmd.com. You can check out the interviews and get plenty of ideas!!
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I’m 29, female, live in the UK and single. I left medicine a year ago after much soul searching. I started on the path when I was 23 and spent 5 years studying, plus a year out when I thought about quitting the first time. I didn’t quit but went back. This was a mistake.
When I left for good last summer, initially I felt euphoric. I was very happy to suddenly have free time to spend with friends and family, eat properly and enjoy my hobbies. Recently however I’ve been plagued with doubts about whether leaving was the right thing. I developed anxiety and depression while at medical school and I know since I’ve left I’ve been so much happier. Back to normal.
No other career grabbed me as much as medicine did when I was 23. It seemed to offer everything I wanted from a job . Meaningful, helpful to society, intellectually stimulating, great mix of practical and academic skills, secure job, clear career path, reasonable to good money, lots of people contact and options to work abroad.
However, I wish I could go back to my 23 year old self and say don’t do it. For me, the reality of medicine was a lot of student debt and some very miserable experiences. i have excellent academics and genuinely wanted to help people but I found the healthcare system incredibly frustrating. I hated the power trips many of my seniors seemed to be on and also felt that my male colleagues had an easier time of it.
I personally cannot recommend medicine to anyone, male or female. So many of my friends from medical school (of both sexes) are now doctors in the UK and they complain constantly about their lives. However, some doctors somewhere must be happy otherwise there would no one left working in our hospitals, surely?
Reading other people’s experiences on this website has really helped me this morning as I was having another bout of “my life is terrible, why did i leave medicine”. I still don’t have a job, my days are spent frittering away time while other people my age work on their careers or look after their families. I’m a bit clueless about what to do next and have had a lot of job applications rejected. It’s not easy in this current job market. I’m now hoping to do a masters in an unrelated field. Surely my 30s should be more enjoyable than my miserable 20s. My main regret is i didn’t get out sooner.
Women Leaving Medicine turned 3 today!
Thank you for all your contributions … may you all be discovering the answers that work best for you!
This sounds like a hard decision. In my experience, the best answers to tough questions like this come from really knowing yourself, your core values and your sense of life purpose and vision for who you would like to become!
It’s not advice per se, but instead a form of guidance :)
Sorry for my delayed response. Please feel free to add your story to our evolving resource, as I’m sure it will be useful.
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I am a family physician with sports medicine fellowship training, but I am currently working in occupational medicine because it was the only work I could find. It’s not because I’m a bad doctor (I don’t think…), it’s because I’m an Army wife. Since I finished residency four years ago, the Army has moved us three times. Even with the shortage of family practitioners, no one wants to hire me if I can’t commit to at least two years. So I’ve done what I can to keep my resume from having huge gaps.
Two years ago my daughter and I moved to live with family while my husband deployed to Afghanistan. I volunteered at a faith based clinic because we were in a city that seemed to have an excess of doctors (and therefore no jobs). The volunteering turned into maternity cover and then job sharing, which was great, and allowed me to work part-time and thus keep my daughter from having both parents miss a year of her life.
When my husband got back, we moved and I started working in an occupational medicine clinic, also part-time, which I appreciated so I could once again not be outsourcing all my child care! After I had my second child about three months ago, I started looking for another job. I applied for a full time family practice locum job that came up through a recruiting agency. The message came back that the clinic felt that I perhaps didn’t have enough family practice experience. And guess who the employer was? The Army!! The very organization whose fault it is that I can’t get enough experience! I was equal parts angry and defeated.
Other recruiters have confirmed that if I don’t get family practice jobs soon and lose my pediatrics experience, I may have trouble getting hired in family practice. Because I’m not getting enough exposure to children? Like the two I’m raising?
So I’m wondering what to do now. I am going back to my occupational medicine job for a while, but I’m wondering if I need to take another tack.
Would I be more likely to get a job if I got an MPH and moved into a less clinical track? I don’t think I’ll be able to get hired in sports medicine anymore, it’s been two years since fellowship and I haven’t worked in a single sports med clinic. And it seems the family practice option is not turning out to be as in demand as I thought. There has got to be another way.
I know the economy is bad and employers feel they have the upper hand, but if we’re so short on docs these days, how about some creative solutions so those of us with this expensive training can contribute to the solution?
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I am currently a resident in pathology, a field that requires fellowship training to find a job. The fellowships aren’t regulated by a match process so usually people will sign on for one two years before they finish residency. I signed a contract while 7 months pregnant for a competitive two year fellowship at my own institution. My husband is in surgery residency at the same place so it made the most sense. He is currently on research for a year so it made sense to have a child while he actually had free time. Now that our child is a few months old, the reality of being in a demanding fellowship while my husband is back in his clinical years is setting in. I have no desire to miss out on the next three years of my child’s life and don’t really think I want to continue to work given my husband cannot serve as a support person. Rather he needs me to serve as a support system due to surgery having much more demanding hours. I will finish out my residency but would like to get out of the fellowship but am not sure about how to gracefully do that since I am screwing over my own training program (if I can get out of my contract- is that even possible?). Does anyone have any experience with this/suggestions?