I'm a Doctor and I Love My Job
The Doc Smitty talks what remains special about being a pediatrician
It’s not popular to like your job in medicine right now.
With the rates of burnout and suicide in physicians at shocking levels, it’s important that we continue to talk about the satisfaction and mental health of physicians. There are systemic issues at hand that lead to the situation that we are in. In her article “Physician burnout is physician abuse” for kevinmd.com, Dr. Pamela Wible has said that, “Burnout is physical and mental collapse caused by overwork. So why are we blaming the victims? The fact is medical students and physicians are collapsing because they are suffering from acute on chronic abuse.”
There are systemic issues that lend itself to the state that we are in. Many physicians are over-worked and over-stressed. And, it’s not just the grisly 30-year career doctor who is tired that feels burnout, medical students report high levels of emotional exhaustion as well.
There are various numbers in studies but the most recent available studies show symptoms of burnout in 40-50 percent of respondents. It’s a shockingly high number, especially those on the outside looking in. Doctors often appear to have it all together and they can make a great living.
So what’s there to be dissatisfied about? It’s not that simple. Demands to see more patients, giving up less control of our lives and other factors can make what should be a rewarding profession very frustrating.
All this is true and we need to continue to talk about it and continue to search for systematic changes that can lessen the burden on physicians
But, I love my job.
I love going to work every day.
I love the deep relationships I have with my patients and their families.
I love the relationships I have with my staff.
I love the other roles I have carved out within my health care system - Cook Children’s in Fort Worth.
Are there difficulties and frustrations?
Sure. Nothing is perfect but currently, for me, the good far outweighs the bad. Because of this, I walk into and out of work feeling energized and excited about the challenges rather than exhausted.
I certainly don’t think it’s because of anything inherent in me that has allowed me to continue to love my job. Is it just the confluence of good circumstances? Good luck? A great system to work for? Yes, but I’ve also fought to change the system in ways that make life better for myself and others. Maybe I’m just too young and burn out is just around the corner? (Although studies show that people with much less experience than me are already burned out.)
Any of those are probably partially true. But, just like the difficulty in pinpointing the reason for burnout is tricky, pinpointing the reasons for physician satisfaction would be difficult as well.
This post floated through my head for months. I hesitated to put it to paper. How would it be received? Is it trite? Would it be slammed for minimizing the problems?
It’s possible it could be all of those things. I hope not. I hope instead that it is seen as encouragement for those out there that love their job and for medical students and trainees who hear the burnout statistics and wonder if they’ve chosen the right field.
Those of us who aren’t burned out need to listen to those who are.
Together we could take their concerns and our energy and make medicine a fulfilling career for compassionate and empathic people again.
I have been having conversations with some very energetic pediatric leaders and recording them for a new podcast. I hope that you’ll find some piece of their story encouraging: https://soundcloud.com/pediatricleadership
About the author
Justin Smith is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Ft. Worth, TX. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's checkupnesroom.com. His interest in communications started when he realized that his parents were relying more on the internet for medical information. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in the Fall of 2016.