Designing your life and career in medicine

The best part of my job is interviewing residents and watching as gears begin to turn in their minds when I ask:

  • What made you decide that you wanted to be a doctor?
  • What is your purpose in life?
  • What legacy are you creating?
  • Which position in your field will truly fulfill you?
  • What type of community do you seek in order to meet your wants and needs?
  • Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

Residents often feel as if they’ve been hiking uphill for years and have only arrived at the first rise. They have relentlessly pursued this journey and are ready to begin their life as a doctor! Suddenly, they realize their new perspective allows them to look down to see how far they’ve come, and glance up and exult in the glory of what lies ahead.

Take in the view; celebrate your hard work. Relax a little and remind yourself that you earned this after years of late-night studying, endless sacrifices, crazy hours, and many, many tears, you’re finally a doctor!

Before you transition into your life and career, it is crucial you plan ahead and build your new support system to help you through the anticipated challenges you may face as you transition from:

  • resident to physician
  • structure to little or no structure
  • bread eater to breadwinner
  • no business to knowing business
  • chaos to work-life balance
  • student to teacher

Dr. Ingrid Walker-Descartes, a residency program director and co-author of Career and Life Planning Guidebook for Medical Residents, shares, “Find time to think about how your career will look from now to the point where you transition into your post-residency position. Jotting down a timeline of essential milestones to hit and tasks to complete will give you a clear roadmap as you move forward.  You should “set yourself up for long-term financial stability. Once you begin practicing, you will also want a plan for how to transition into a well-balanced and happy lifestyle.”

Napoleon Hill’s Keys to Success: The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement is a great place to start for guidance as you adjust to your new lifestyle as a doctor. These principles will aid you in living your life intentionally and purposefully while also maintaining your success.  The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement also focus on the benefits of teamwork, level-mindedness, and the ability to face adversity. The book lays out all the resources you’ll need to maintain physical health, mental health, and confidence as you start your life as a physician.

Use The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement as a guide show while making a plan for when you transition from a resident to a practicing physician. Setting and exceeding goals for the first few years of your career is essential to preventing burnout and keeping you motivated. A part of your transitional plan should include a timeline of milestones as well as a checklist of tasks and mandatory deadlines. You may also set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals to motivate you to continue to work towards a better career and lifestyle.

The life of a doctor requires adaptability and an incredible amount of self-motivation. It is so important to plan for the multitude of challenges you will come across during the first few years of your career, so we want you to be prepared. The path you have chosen is one that requires a great deal of hard work and diligence but is so rewarding and fulfilling at the end of the day. You have finally made it to the top of the mountain. It’s time to prepare for your next climb.

Todd Skertich is managing partner, Arlington Healthcare and founder, Adventures in Medicine and Physician Career Planning. He is the author of The Art of Physician Negotiation and can be reached on Twitter @adventuresinmed.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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