Physicians giving up medicine

After years and years of intensive medical training, nights without sleep, rigorous exams and a demanding workload, you made it, you became a doctor.You also have another full-time job, as a mom. Now the reality has set in and you wonder how on earth you can continue in the medical profession AND have a balanced family life. It's not what you imagined. With increased patient loads, the stress of dealing with HMOs and piles of paperwork, you're burned-out, unenthusiastic and your personal life is suffering. You fulfilled your dream, but how can this be? Is it just you? What can you do?

Several MomMD members share their experiences. Burn-out Many doctors experience phases of burn-out during their career.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to manage a medical career and a personal life, which is really nonexistent and has been for some time now", says one young physician.

Another member says, "Most of the doctors I know are frustrated being in the profession. Many would leave if they found a way to support their current lifestyles. Most are so locked into their earnings that they cannot conceive of leaving medicine, despite the unhappiness. It's a shame."

Finding an alternative career that allows you to pay the bills and add balance to your family life can be extremely difficult, especially when student loans can top $100,000. Many doctors aren't living a fancy lifestyle with bulging bank balances. Like working women in other professions, financial priorities include childcare, loans, mortgages, family expenditures and so on. Even if available, cutting back hours simply isn't an option for many women physicians. Women doctors often feel the pressures more acutely because of their added family responsibilities.

"To say that it was *extremely hard* to find an alternative is an understatement... I am a young doctor, only four years out of residency, in a low-paying specialty (family practice) and I have astronomical student loan payments to make ($125K-something that the older physicians in my previous practice did not understand at all) which pretty much precludes me from decreasing my hours/workload as much as I would like to. And even if I could have afforded to just cut back on my hours, the partners in my practice would not tolerate it without extreme penalty, if at all.", says Tracy.

Managed care changes, HIPPA laws, malpractice lawsuits and Medicare regulations have also contributed to physician stress. "I believe that medicine is incredibly demanding (even part-time). Patients expect far too much. Managed care expects us to solve unsolvable problems with less than 15 minutes per patient", says another family practioner with two school age children. She goes on to say, "Despite working only 2-3 days per week, I still feel like giving up medicine all together because of the awful working conditions... I honestly don't know too many doctors who enjoy medicine anymore".

Another member describes her day, "I see close to 60 people a day in my ob-gyn practice. Don't ask how I do it because at the end of the day, my head is swirling. I do this because that is the only way I can make my overhead and actually take home enough to pay for the nanny and student loans. It is ridiculous." So why practice at all?

Many doctors still love what they do, love interacting with patients, love diagnosing them, teaching them and getting patients to take care of themselves. "It feels good when they tell me I'm the best doctor in the world... I love trying to figure out how to add quality in to the work I do every day" says one single mom physician.

Another member says, "what a privilege it is to practice medicine... But that privilege comes with a huge responsibility. I must be continuously vigilant that I am practicing the kind of medicine that I was trained to do (i.e. being thorough and spending time with patients). There are no shortcuts to providing good care. Hyper efficiency does not exist in the world of good medical care.. And no one can sustain good medical practice when they are burned out.".

 

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