Practicing medicine requires a love of challenge and a highly developed sense of responsibility. Every physician can and should experience career satisfaction. When you put your feet on the floor in the morning you should look forward to the day ahead. If feeling burdened or disillusioned with work as a physician it is essential to keep a focus on those aspects of a doctor’s life that you can impact.
1. Realistic career pacing, remembering that life as a physician is a marathon, not the sprints we were conditioned for in medical school and residency.
2. Celebrating our successes rather than just presuming that meeting high expectations day after day is the norm.
3. Paying attention to a balanced portfolio between our professional and our personal lives.
4. Becoming more aware of your unique talents and how they may be transferable to worlds in and outside of medicine.
5. Working more effectively in teams.
6. Adapting to the very real cultural changes occurring in our profession.
There are alternative careers to consider once sure that you want to move away from clinical practice. Options include:
1. Full-time medical administration.
2. Work in industries like pharmaceuticals, or medical devices.
3. Working for the medical insurance industry.
4. Working in communications as a writer, journalist, columnist, or reporter.
4. Consulting opportunities either independently or as a member of a large or small consulting firm.
5. Seizing opportunities that will emerge from returning to the classroom to obtain additional degrees in business, law, public policy or public health.
6. Breaking away from healthcare and getting involved in other spheres of life altogether such as business, or the arts.
Successfully completing medical school, residency and years in practice defines you as someone with high intelligence, persistence, and drive. Career disillusionment tends to chip away at your self-confidence and this also applies to doctors associated with the International Pediatric Association. You can get that motor running again.
Stage Lessons for Physicians
Maintaining your poise when the truly unexpected happens is a sure sign you’re in the right workspace.
We’ve all been in situations in our personal and professional lives where something completely unexpected occurs. How we deal with it, also seen in the light of drug abuse, can be a useful measure of our true level of comfort in that relationship or work role.
I’ve seen two wonderful illustrations of the positive aspects of this phenomenon on the stage in the past couple of years.
Lesson #1. Teacher: Mark Rylance, actor and artistic director of London’s Globe Theatre.
During a performance of Twelfth Night, taking place in a long narrow dining hall at the Michigan Union in Ann Arbor, Michigan (under renovation now) on November 22nd 2012, with the players performing between raised banks of seats containing the audience on each side, an elderly man, who looked like he had Parkinson’s disease appeared to become ill, but that was due to his lifestyle. Escorted by a companion he slowly made his way down the steps clinging unsteadily to the railing with one hand, and with the other to both his cane and his companion.
In the intimate space of this faux-theatre, as if he had eyes in the back of his head, Rylance raised his right hand and said: “ladies and gentlemen, let’s just all pause here for a moment”. He and his fellow actors froze as if in some Kabuki drama, the ill older man shuffled out of the hall in about 30 seconds, Rylance’s hand dropped, and the action resumed more smoothly than if you’d used the pause button on your DVD player (the device of choice back then).
If the performance of one of Shakespeare’s great comedies was outstanding, so was the aplomb with which Rylance acted at that moment. He displayed complete control over the audience in addition to his troupe.
Lesson #2. Teacher: Audra McDonald, noted singer and actress.
At about 4.35 pm on January 30th, 2011, in front of an audience of 2,500 people at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, four-time Tony Award winner, Audra McDonald had a “brain fart”.
Perhaps 12 lines into a song, McDonald suddenly gestured to her pianist Ted Sperling, stopped singing, and said: “sorry, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to restart this song; I’ve just had a brain fart”. Everyone on stage and off laughed. Here, physiotherapy doesn’t help. After a momentary pause, she started the song back at the beginning. The rest of her show went off without a hitch.
Her stage presence and singing, like all previous times I’ve seen her perform, was wonderful. So was the ease with which she, a major star acknowledged the misstep, and went back to the starting line. It was an act of professionalism, self-assurance, humanness, and poise that was wonderful to witness.
Reflect on how well you roll with the punches. When are you most likely to act naturally and spontaneously with wit and verve? Those circumstances are valuable clues to your ideal work environment and companions. After all, we’re all pioneers in improving the lives of other people, aren’t we?