Don't become a doctor #4 - A cruel mistress

A friend of mine once referred to medicine as the cruelest of mistresses. It took me a while to catch his meaning, but eventually it became clear. Ask a doctor, even one that hates his job, what he would do if he wasn't a doctor. I'll bet most couldn't give you an answer. No matter how much you hate it, there's no other job we'd rather do. If I wanted money or prestige, I would've done something else. But I love medicine, as much as it hurts sometimes.

And it's hard for non-doctors to understand that there is something we value as much as anything else in our lives. I talked to a radiologist who had come out of retirement. His comment: what was I supposed to do, sail a boat? It finds its way into every part of our lives, and continually pulls.

As priorities go, I think most doctors find that the only important things are God, family, and medicine. The problems come that the order of those three is often not as clear. I know several doctors and medical students who celebrated the births of their children by taking an afternoon off.

And that's what I mean by a cruel mistress. A flesh and blood mistress, we could leave in a heartbeat if it meant our families, our happiness. But medicine? It will drag us down. And it's tough to love someone as fully or have as meaningful relationships because in the back of your mind is always medicine. And as much as you hate the pager, you still answer it.

If you're not ready for this kind of commitment, then think twice about medical school.

6 comments:

The MSILF said...

Yeah, I've noticed that among two docs I know who recently retired. They just have nothing to do and hate it, and love to come over every time I see them and talk about medicine.

Anonymous said...

When pre-meds apply for med school, I am sure every one of them had a long list of ECs and hobbies on which they could elaborate with passion. What happened? Medical school sucks in well-rounded, interesting people and churns out fatigued and sullen, ableit caring, individuals with no life.

Anonymous said...

I am a new family doctor and I can tell anyone out there who is thinking about medicine as a career that you should think again. Going into medicine was the worst decision of my life. The problem is you get into all of this at such a young age and you really can't comprehend what you are getting yourself into. It really isn't worth it...

Anonymous said...

I am a second year medical student and I can say without a doubt that medicine does not recruit "well-rounded individuals." Aside from a small group of students (ie the exception) very few actually enjoy any of their EC's and hobbies. Premeds know what they must present on a med school application to suceed and follow the rule to a T. You must be academically excellent but also be involved in the community. EC's become simply something you must do, like a biology class. The majority of med students are overly ambitious and/or driven to the profession (and hence into performing all of their well-rounded activities) by over-demanding familial expectations. Getting into medicine just allows you to drop that part of the charade. It also opens your eyes to the life of servitude that you have signed up for. Right now, even for someone like me, who didn't have to fake anything to get in... there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the comments left really don't match with my experiences of medical students. The ones i've interacted with have kept their hobbies as the things that kept them sane during medical school. Activities such as ice hockey, swimming, cooking, clubs, photography, etc. Also, all I've heard from students at UBC medical school is the crazy diversity of the students and how much of a joy medical school is (though of course there are those times of burn out and difficulty). I wonder if the Canadian system is much different from the US system?

Archer said...

Amazing writing
Right from my heart