For a long, happy career, be more than just a doctor

“You’re a doctor; focus on being a doctor.”

This piece of advice was recently given to me by my own father, in regards to my multiple ambitions outside of the medical field. He himself only recently retired from a long career as a surgeon, so his opinion is the result of years of experience.

His advice got me thinking.

What makes for career longevity in our field? Statistics show that more than half of physicians experience symptoms of burnout at some point, and some studies show that over 50 percent of physicians wouldn’t recommend the profession to their children. Those are some tough numbers, and it’s enough to make you wonder: what’s the key to having a long, happy career?

Is my father right? Should we do simply what we’re trained to do and focus solely on that?

I’ve spoken with numerous other people in the field (basically every physician I come into contact with), and the opinions I’ve received all seem to have a common thread: The key to a long, happy career is having other passions to balance it out.

As physicians, we’ve been so focused on practicing medicine for 10 to 15 years that a good number of us have lost touch with our other passions.

So when regulations and administrators tell you how you can and cannot practice, it’s easy to feel like your motivation for going into the field in the first place has been stripped away, and people are often left with very little else.

So, it is my firm belief that the key is to have other passions and pursuits that challenge us.

Physicians like Kevin Pho, MD, for example, have found a way to merge medicine and social media. Others, like the White Coat Investor and Physician on Fire, have found a way to help others in the field of finance. Heck, a group of plastic surgeons formed a band called Help the Doctor, and they’ve played all over some big-time Hollywood hotspots. Art, writing, music, sports — just about anything you can think of — physicians have a passion for and excel at something other than just medicine.

Having outside interests makes our day jobs that much more enjoyable, because it’s not all we have in life. Obviously, it’s nice if those outside ventures bring in some income as well. But even if they don’t, just having something else to challenge us, to pour our energies into; it can bring a lot of fulfillment.

So, after all that, I’d like to challenge everyone (including my father) to reignite those passions and find those other things that drive you. I think it’ll make for a better physician all-around and, ultimately, a longer, healthier career.

What are some of your other passions besides medicine?

“Passive Income, MD” is a physician who blogs at his self-titled site, Passive Income M.D.

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