It is not a secret that being a physician can be exhausting and time-consuming, but do most nonphysicians really know what it’s like to be one? The answer is a resounding no. Television glamorizes the role of the physician and hides the tedious everyday realities. Spouses and partners of physicians know too well the frustration of having a partner that seems to be “always working and not shutting work off.”
Being in the medical profession means always having your phone with you just in case there are any critical labs or something important that comes up. Whether you’re at the grocery store, out on vacation, or watching your kids play soccer, as an MD, people will expect more of you than others.
How many of you have had to take a work-related call while on vacation? Honeymoon? While in labor? Unfortunately, I can say yes to all of these questions. If one isn’t careful and doesn’t have firm, healthy boundaries, medicine can and will suck the joy out of your life, truly distracting you from what is most important in life. Your health and wellbeing should be your priority. Physicians are in a “serving” profession, but one can’t pour from an empty cup. Just because you made an oath for service, it doesn’t mean that you should sacrifice your long-term personal, physical, and mental health. After all, aren’t you a patient as well. No amount of money is worth sacrificing your health because without health, everything else, suddenly, no longer matters.
The medical journey is long and hard, and it can be exhausting and energy-sucking. Most physicians spend over 10 years before they become fully licensed, and for some subspecialties, the time in training is significantly more. After the long sprint called school and training, there is a marathon called medical practice.
The topic of physician mental health is crucial, but it’s often ignored. For over a decade, I worked like a machine, which honestly taught me so much, helped me hone my skills, and help thousands of patients, but it took something from me. That something was self-care, personal goals and development, and time spent with my family. Physicians, “you art thou healer.” We need to be proactive and carve time just for you, as much as possible.
If you follow this rule, being a physician wouldn’t be the source of frustration and severe FOMO (fear of missing out). After a decade, I decided to take a break from clinical practice. I can thankfully say I found my passion again, still using my skills as a physician and doing what gives me joy, as a mental health and wellness coach.
Tomi Mitchell, MD, is a family physician.
This post appeared on KevinMD.