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I hope I'm not fated for this...

I'm looking forward to starting my emergency medicine residency. I know it's going to be an exciting time, and that I'll have some amazing experiences.

Nevertheless, I can't help but worry a little bit about the risks that a career as a doctor entails. What risks are these? Well, Hospital Impact points out one of them:

Some of the physicians are socially challenged. They are locked up for 12 or more years in college, medical school, residencies or fellowships where they are completely removed from the real world. Unbelievable pressure is placed on them, and then they are set free and told to "Be normal." Hah.
In addition to social awkwardness, being a doc can make it tougher to handle rejection:
Accustomed to sequential success, physicians are not optimally equipped for the rejections, false starts or dead ends that are part and parcel of life for most of humanity. Practicing medicine today has its woes but we are to an overwhelming degree in demand, valued, respected and well compensated especially in comparison with individuals in most other occupational fields. (HT: GruntDoc.)
Even worse, a medical career can sometimes even dumb you down if it becomes the only thing that's important in your life:
Medicine is a demanding mistress, always with its siren call in your ear, signaling you your ever dumber fate. The success of the few does not alter the dynamic for the many. Interests and enthusiasms fade and ultimately wither. Like expectant lovers, promised “tomorrow” too many times, they leave or die.
I don't think that any of these evil things will be my fate as a doctor, but it's still good to worry about them. After all, some doctors always end up as social cripples or one-dimensional human beings. Most lawyers just starting out never think they're going to turn into unethical sleazeballs, either, but some of them always do.

Some of the best advice I've gotten on these matters came from my Legal Ethics professor in law school. He compared a legal career to a mountain climbing expedition. Your ethical commitments, just like your tolerance for mountaineering risk, are decisions that are often made best in advance -- in base camp. Before peer pressure and high-altitude hypoxia lead you to make stupid climbing decisions high up on the mountain, you should decide how much bad weather you're willing to risk in order to summit. Likewise, new lawyers as much as possible ought to make their ethical commitments before the pressures of a case and the lure of easy money lead them to compromise their values at the expense of their clients and themselves.

The same thing applies to new doctors facing known career risks, ethical and otherwise. Am I going to abandon my interests? My decision now is no. After I develop some expertise, will I be afraid to try anything new? I'll commit myself now to fighting that temptation. Am I going to ignore my friends and family? I'm deciding now that I won't.

Residency is going to be a lot of hard work, and it's going to be exciting. But I'll still pay attention to the unlikely risks, and avoid them if I can.

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