Why are you in medicine?

I was recently interviewed on a podcast and was asked the simple question, “Why are you in medicine?” In retrospect, that’s the exact question I silently ask myself in frustration and exhaustion a little bit too often while I’m in the hospital. In those moments I recognize that I feel burnt out. In those moments if someone told me that I had to repeat intern year in order to finish residency I would probably quit medicine altogether.

So much of our job as medical students, residents, fellows, and attending physicians are out of our control. Even when we are able to treat our patients appropriately, we are faced with the simple fact that many of our patients might simply not follow our recommendations. But you know what? That’s OK. We can’t control everything and acknowledging that is the first step. What we can control is how those external forces make us feel. You are in control of your own emotions and your personal sense of job satisfaction.

Residency trains physicians in how to treat patients and develop into well-rounded doctors. Sometimes, however, we lose focus on why we went into medicine in the first place. The truth of the matter is that the day to day struggles and frustrations weigh heavily on our professional and personal lives during training and those stressors likely won’t abate upon graduation to the next level of professional development. The stressors of medical school compared to residency are different but the same. The stressors of residency to fellowship or our first job as an attending physician are different but the same. Residents today more than ever need to train themselves in how to perceive job satisfaction in order to find personal enjoyment in their day to day life as a physician and in doing so help combat professional burnout. We must not lose sight of the forest for the trees.

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