Why the physician path today is far from linear

As a child, the only physician I ever knew was our crusty opinionated and entirely trustworthy family doc. His physician career spanned almost five decades, in one unbroken line from his first days as a GP in solo practice until his retirement, which occurred way past the age at which most of us would like to stop working.

His was the typical physician career, representing continuity, professional satisfaction and a lifelong commitment to a largely stable community of patients.

The other physician I know and admire greatly for these same qualities is my husband, a urologist, who still loves what he does and wouldn’t trade away any of his doctoring in practice for an alternative.

However, I am going to take a provocative stance and argue that these kinds of physician careers, and the men and women, who have created them are a dying breed.

Why do I say this? Online medical training programs, such as online nursing schools, have depreciated the profession, as the quality and exclusivity are compromised

  • Technology has changed the way we work and interact, permitting unprecedented mobility, flexibility and instant access
  • Healthcare organizations, and the healthcare industry in general, are undergoing sea changes that are upsetting the traditional medical practice model and introducing enormous uncertainty
  • The younger generations have come to expect more out of their careers – more gratification, more freedom, more flexibility, more time off, more control over their schedules
  • They are also less tolerant – of authority, of expectations of self-sacrifice, of work that doesn’t give them a sense of purpose, of situations that lack choice and options
  • Even those of us who are boomers are looking for alternatives – seeking more professional fulfillment, greater meaning for the years of work that remain, relief from the “grind”, less stress OR perhaps greater reward for the stress that is innate in being a physician.

How then should you view your physician career?

The signs are pointing to a path that is far from linear. Instead, the physician career of the future is more likely to be comprised of a patchwork of opportunities, some sequential, others simultaneous, in which you will be offered the chance to exercise a wide range of skills:

  • clinical
  • administrative
  • leadership and managerial
  • analytic
  • research-oriented
  • communication, both written and verbal
  • technological
  • inventive and innovative
  • entrepreneurial
  • consultative

Each is a distinctive skill set that you might want to begin honing.

Does this prediction make you anxious? Or does this thrill you?

I find it rich with creative potential.

Philippa Kennealy is a family physician and certified physician development coach who blogs at The Entrepreneurial MD.

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