Week after week, I read your guest posts here and I am so grateful that you are taking time to share your stories — stories filled with pain, despair, loss of hope, determination and even occasional successes.
I so badly want to help you feel better AND find workable solutions. While I realize each of you has your own unique story, situation and set of needs, I believe there are themes that are emerging: survival; finding joy; embracing your own identity whether you choose to practice medicine or not; balancing the demands of motherhood, spousehood and work; dealing with demanding work environments; coping with deep disappointment as to how life as a physician has turned out for you.
I would like to create for you an inspiring, affordable, self-paced home study program to provide comfort, inspiration AND solutions, based on my own insights and skills as a physician coach whose job it is to help physicians like you. I’m also a working mom (working full-time from a home office) and a former practicing family doc who burned out many years ago.
I know you are busy so this program will not be a big old lecture thing that you have to slog through. Instead, with your help and input I want to design it to be exactly what you want.
Do you want concise nuggets that challenge you to experience and savor your life more deeply?
Do you want to learn new skills to help you discover for yourself that next experience that will bring you deeper fulfillment and satisfaction in your professional and personal life?
Do you want me to share a ton of resources that point you to non-clinical opportunities?
Do you want a bit of everything?
Here is a link to a brief 5-question survey to help you answer these questions (it won’t take longer than 3 minutes): Women in Medicine Survey
Once again, how can I REALLY be of service to you, and help ease your difficult choices??
[This is a guest post]
I am a family physician who has been out of residency for 3 years. I had never really wanted to have a family up until a year or two ago. Now I really want to start a family and I feel trapped. I bring in 2/3 of our household income and I have over $180k in student loans. I am looking into part time work as an attending at my residency program but they have no openings since they’ve recently been bought out by a health system. I would like to be a stay-at-home mom at least until my kids are in school but I feel guilty that it would be a waste of a very expensive education. The office I currently work at is poorly managed and I am not respected at all, (I’ve been there 9 months now and they still have the old doc’s name on the sign!) I got more respect as a resident! Every day I go home depressed and I don’t even enjoy the patient interactions the way I used to. I feel like nothing more than a “means to an end” for not only my patients (who seem to get more demanding every day), but also the hospital system that owns our practice. To them, my only value is how many patients I can see in a day. The older, male physicians here get pretty much whatever they want and I am pretty much expected to “suck it up” whenever they want me to do more, even though I am their top-earning FP every month. I know if I have a child right now, I will regret not being there for the child and I will bring home remnants of the “toxic” environment I work in. I feel obligated to work full time due to financial constraints but if we have a child I will not feel right unless I can be home with my children a significant part of the time. I pretty much feel burnt out only 3 years out and this makes me feel guilty and I wonder if I’m just lazy and not cut out to do this. The sad things is, I feel like I’m a good family doc and that I not only practice current evidence-based medicine but also have good rapport with my patients. I just feel like the important things in life are my current (and hopefully) future family and the current healthcare system we work in won’t allow me to have a family. I am not getting any younger and I just feel lost. If it weren’t for Ativan every few nights, I probably wouldn’t get any sleep at all. I have no idea what to do. I just know things can’t continue like this.
labm1 asked: I am an Internist practicing in the central coast of California. I work 3 days a week, compressing my day by not taking a lunch hour. I have already cut back somewhat because of my increasing difficulties with my work/life balance, but nothing has gotten much better. I am depressed, and ready to leave medicine. I just don't know where to begin. I have some ideas, but I could use some advice.
I am so sorry that you are feeling so low about practice. The kind of advice you’d get in an email or on-line probably isn’t worth much as each person’s situation is so personal. It may be better for you to find someone with whom you can discuss your situation — a mentor, a coach, or even a therapist if your depression is significant.
Sorry to be so vague but it would be somewhat cavalier to dispense advice on a website.
jeanfeng asked: Hi, I'm a student considering going into medicine. I came across this blog and I was wondering if you could offer me some tips before I make my decision to pursue medicine or not. I'm a senior in college, and originally, I was going to go into computer science, but I have not found my job to be satisfying and I have always had a keen interest in medicine. What are the major reasons physicians become disillusioned? I saw a lot of posts on women trying to balance their family life and work. Thanks
The major reasons for physician disillusionment (women in particular) seem to be:
- mismatch between expectations and reality
- challenging work, long hours and decreasing incomes
- difficult patients that “suck the life out of you”
- poor work-life balance
- fears about or actually being sued
- hard to find good part-time work which women often seek while raising families
- feeling of being trapped by the debt of huge medical school student loans
I am sure there are others - please feel free to chime in, anyone who reads this and has a response to add.
Philippa Kennealy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
[This is a guest post]
“All my life I was told, go to college. So I did, and I excelled. So I was told apply to medical school; which I did and also excelled there. Nearly a decade and $100k later I am a primary eye care physician with my own practice. This would be great if I could make a living wage doing this. Between my student loan and the cost of opening my practice I am living well below the poverty line. As much as I dreamed of having a family; it was not to be for me as I had a cancer scare in my early 30ies that resulted in a hysterectomy. Now I feel my entire existence has been devoted to a noble cause, but noble does not pay my student loan. It’s as though I have forgotten how to be myself by trying to build my practice and no longer know how to have fun since patients always expect us to be Dr. whoever 24/7 . My husband has been a real trouper through all of this but consistently wants me to quit. It’s one thing if you do something that you love for minimal compensation, or do something for huge compensation that you don’t really love; but when you are wasting your days doing something you don’t really like for no compensation - well how do you justify this? Like many of the posts I have read here, it is about the time and effort that has been exerted to get to this point. How does a person reconcile spending so much time and money to get to a point that is so completely devoid of fulfillment?”
[This is a guest post]
“I am an internal medicine intern who started my residency 4 months ago. I realize that this post may sound like the grumbling of a new intern who is overwhelmed by the terrible tribulations of residency, and perhaps it is just that, but I can’t stop thinking about the idea of quitting. I graduated from an Ivy league college and have always strived to accomplish great things with my career and join the ranks of prestigious professionals who have a long list of accomplishments too long to fit in their 5 page CV. I yearned for that career recognition, and that was what ultimately drove me to go to medical school.
But it medical school, things changed. My clinical years were terrible for the perfectionist me. I’d measure my self worth by the amount of positive feedbacks I’d get, and would deprecate myself for the smallest things that I did wrong. I’ve never been the most articulate person previous to this, so as you can imagine, round presentations and calling consultants were certainly not my forte, which contributed to more self blame. But I gritted my teeth and toughed it out, telling myself that once I’m an attending, things will change. I didn’t find any specialty that I absolutely loved, so in the end, I opted for Internal Medicine by default, partly because it gave me more time to decide, and partly because I was couples matching with my boyfriend (who is now my fiance).
And now here we are, a few months into my residency, and I found myself desperately having second thoughts about my career choice. I liken the field of medicine to gambling - once you’re losing, it becomes so hard to cut your losses and go, so you keep sitting at the table hoping to win back your losses. First it was college, that you’ve already taken organic chemistry class so you might as well continue….then it’s because you don’t want to waste your MCAT score…then it’s because of medical school tuition, you’ve already paid and studied so hard, why not walk away with an MD degree? and now, I realize that an MD without residency is useless…as I so frustratingly found ZERO jobs on monsters.com or craigslist (it seems so sad that I’m even looking on these websites in the first place). And now in residency, the gambler mentality is telling me to stay, because I’ve come “this far already”, why not complete your training? and then there’s fellowship, etc. etc. etc.
My desire to quit isn’t really motivated by family matters. My fiance and I have a very healthy and happy relationship (*knock on wood*) in residency, and I don’t think I want to have any children in the near future. I don’t know if I want to quit so badly because I just don’t find fulfillment in the medical career, or because I feel so inadequate right now and am terrified that I’m going to be a terrible resident, or I just have too high of an expectation from what a great career should be, or that I’m so terrified of failing. And I don’t know how I’ll ever discern the true reason, and I don’t know what else I could do if I weren’t going to be a doctor. The idea of finances or creative ventures such as writing doesn’t appeal to me very much, and what I truly love doing is traveling abroad, but I guess I can’t exactly make a living out of that…
Basically, for those of you who were kind and patient enough to read this far in my ridiculous rambling, I’m just very confused and would LOVE to hear any advice or comments that you may have…seriously, ANY advice would be so greatly appreciated!!!”
[This is a guest post]
“Thank you so much for this website. I have been feeling so alone in trying to make the decision to put my medical career on hold to stay home with my family. I am just back from an extended mat leave (my third in 5 years) and feeling burnt out already. I find the work-home balance so tough, even working part-time with help from a wonderful nanny who our kids love. I find I’m always playing catch-up at home and work, feeling guilty about unmet expectations (mostly my own!). Can’t help but wonder if I just need some more time to adjust back at work? Am I disillusioned by our broken medical system? Am I exhausted by the complex patients I see as one of the only subspecialists in our area? In my heart I know I won’t regret more time at home. I feel these years are too precious to waste being on call, feeling stressed/anxious all the time. I want the crazy rushing to stop,but will I be making a HUGE mistake?
I can’t help but fear that if I do leave, the longer I’m away from medicine, the more difficult it will be to return (it certainly has been this time around after 18 months away).
Thankfully my busy MD hubby is supportive of whatever I do. I know his life will be easier with me at home. Will our marriage be better with me at home? Most likely.
I welcome any feedback/comments.”
kimnoel asked: Hi, I am an MD who just finished a general surgery internship and am looking to get out of medicine. I feel really lost and am in a very bad place. I would really love to connect with women doctors who have chosen different paths after medical training. If you, or anyone you know would be available to talk I would really be appreciative of any advice.
I am sorry to read of your distress. That is a tough feeling to cope with after all the resources you have invested in getting to this point in your career.
This website is filled with stories of such women, many of whom have offered their email addresses, and you will also find a great support center at www.mommd.com.
I hope this helps
Philippa Kennealy (email@example.com)
civilneil asked: I'm a 24 yo male who is working as an engineer. I too once aspired to be a doctor one day or at least fix the broken medical system; do you think what all these ladies are saying (mostly that the amount of effort involved in having kids and pursuing medicine) is too great applies the same for men? If not, why? It seems like even working 8-5 wouldn't satisfy some of these women, which seems a bit strange.
Thank you very much for writing. Your question is hard to answer other than to say that “it depends on you - only you can determine what kind of effort your job demands”. As for your 8AM -5PM work day question, many physician jobs require you to see patients in that time AND then still find time for all your return phone calls, recording your patient visits in your notes, reviewing all your test results (this can take 1-2 hours) AND being on call for the entire night as often as 2 or 3 times a week. It is a very time-intensive job for most full-time physician positions.
I hope that provides an idea of some of what you are missing by being an engineer instead of a doctor. :-)
[This is a guest post]
I’m an anesthesiologist who has been in private practice for about 11 years. I started to realize in residency that medicine didn’t make me happy, but I kept thinking things would get better once I broke out into private practice. I’m still waiting. My partners are a bunch of greedy, backstabbing sharks. I look at my patients as lawsuits waiting to happen. I don’t enjoy Big Brother Government looking over my shoulder and telling me how to do my job.
To further add to my discontent, three years ago, my hospital had an outbreak of hepatitis C cases. The outbreak was traced back to a surgical tech with a drug problem. She was stealing fentanyl from our anesthesia carts when we weren’t in the room, injecting herself, and replacing the dirty syringes, which she refilled with saline. Two of my patients were infected and both of them sued. One had a particularly nasty attorney who managed to put me through hell. The experience nearly broke my spirit, certainly as a doctor, but also as a caring human being.
I can’t (and won’t) do it anymore. Following the ordeal, I wrote a fictional account of my story. It’s at the stage where it’s ready to be published.
I guess everything happens for a reason. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy writing, and have been told that I’m quite good at it. If my book achieves reasonable success, which I anticipate it will, I am OUT. And I will NEVER regret it.