Sunday, February 25, 2007


I've been in the hospital a lot lately (hence the lack of recent posts). It is interesting to reflect that my formal medical training ends in 4 months. Nearing the end of almost a decade dedicated to becoming a physician I feel more weary than anything. I came in an idealistic young man, certain there could be no better way to "help people" than being a doctor.

I still love the actual experience of caring for my patients, but in the real world paperwork is the majority of my job. About 60-70% my day is filling out forms and notes documenting medical care. All this paperwork is governed by so many laws and regulations that mistakes in paperwork could end up hurting my patients or having me lose my medical license or get sued. I still hold to the ideals that drove me into this field, but as I look for a job I find that there are very few places that I can practice the kind of medicine that I had hoped. Even volunteer opportunities to serve seem out of reach. (I recently got turned down by two places I where offered to work a month for free.)

The disconcerting reality is that this is more a job than a calling, an often exhausting and frustrating job. In this job most of my time and energy will end up being put into insuring the practice I join stays financially stable and doesn't get sued. Do well at this and you might get 10% of your time to do that "making a difference in people's lives" stuff I dreamed about as an 19 year-old when I suffered through Organic Chemistry in order to graduate pre-med.

A decade ago I had seemingly endless energy and idealism. Now I'm tired, in debt, and skeptical about how much good a doctor can actually do. I can't help but wonder, if I might have invested the last 10 years of my life better doing something else.

Hopefully, this is just a phase I'm going through --the uncertainty of starting out to practice on my own after so many years of training. The idealist and optimistic 19 year-old inside of me says that once I start practicing I'll find out again that I love this job and wouldn't want to do anything else. I hope he's right.