Doctors spend their early adulthood preparing for medicine. In college, we take classes to satisfy prerequisites and prepare for the MCAT exam. Medical school has a life of its own. The volume of material to master is extensive, and the pressure mounts to be your best. Next is the interview process for residency training and the anticipation of Match Day.
Then life will begin. Maybe?
Now you are in your late 20s to 30s trying to catch up with the life that your non-medical friends and family have been enjoying for years. Does landing that ideal position guarantee that now you are living the life of your dreams?
Here is the countdown to the seven keys to having a medical career that serves your life and not a life focused primarily on medicine.
7. Stop comparing. Instead of using colleagues’ success as inspiration, we compare.
We witness another doctor’s success and use it to set the standard. Once you understand that your career path is unique to you, you stop comparing yourself to others. Define what a successful life and career means to you. You’ll find peace in your decision to not pursue subspecialty training and instead work part-time while being a parent if that’s your choice.
6. Set boundaries. Becoming a doctor is a very structured process. There are clearly defined steps to take and guidelines to follow. When you follow the steps, you will succeed. But structure has its drawbacks. It leaves little room for exploration. To create a career that serves your life you have to set boundaries on medicine. Decide how you want to work, part time, full time, or something in between. Make the request and if it is not a match be willing to explore other options.
5. Change is good. Becoming a clinician is a lifetime commitment. Or is it? The world of medicine is rapidly changing as new technology and advancements make their way into the medical arena. Career opportunities are now more diverse than ever. The courageous doctor blends her or his interests and expertise to take their career beyond the clinical or research track.
4. Prioritize happiness. Family and friends are proud of you. They love to brag about your accomplishments. Pleasing them can derail your peace and happiness. This is your life. You know the sacrifices you made to get where you are. Use the lessons in the sacrifices to define your happiness. Then go after it, even if it is not what your family has envisioned for you.
3. Create a wealth plan. Doctors are rich and get paid a lot of money. That’s the general perception. The reality is doctors have debt. Unfortunately, many doctors don’t have a wealth plan, and so we work and work and work. Medical school didn’t teach us the value of a wealth plan. A wealth plan, which includes living within a budget, equals financial freedom. There is a level of joy in doing the work you love without worrying about your financial future.
2. Your value extends far beyond the MD letters after your name. After the investment of eight or more years of formal education coupled with another three or more years of residency training, it is understandable why your identity is tied to being a doctor. It is a huge investment of time, energy, and resources. Along the journey, you have impacted people’s lives, made contributions to medicine, and made a difference to your family and community. You are more than the knowledge acquired and the procedural skills you possess. When you own your value in all areas of your life, your confidence soars.
1. You can be my authentic self. Medical professionals know how to strive and achieve. There is more to life than that. Take time to be in the present moment. Breathe. Then breathe again. Enjoy the people and patients you work with. Instead of focusing on not having enough time, look forward to spending even a few quality minutes with your family. Reconnect to interests, hobbies, and activities that make you feel good inside. It makes you a well-rounded person.
Stephanie Wellington is a physician and can be reached at Nurturing MDs.
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