One of my mentors whom I look up to in life recently announced her retirement, she wrote,
“It’s time for me to take care of my loved ones and myself. I’ve delayed, de-prioritized, sacrificed those closest to me as I care for total strangers. Granted it is incredibly rewarding to save a life or to improve a patient’s quality of life, I find that I no longer can justify the abuse I’m taking, and the demands medicine exerts on my loved ones. I’m at the cross-road where I must decide to do what’s best for my kids, my partner, and myself.”
This post started as a response to her announcement, which I decided to share with you as it came from my heart.
Dear Ready-to-Retire Doctor Friend,
I am sorry that you have been abused by medicine yet I am happy that you made the decision to leave the abuse behind.
I 100% agree with you that medicine is the ultimate inhumane pursuit of humanity. We were drawn to it by a higher calling and deep rooted ideals, only to find ourselves assaulted from all fronts; we are besieged and ambushed physically, mentally, psychologically, socially, and financially.
To this disillusionment, I have contemplated finishing residency and fellowship but quit medicine the moment I finish learning/training, never to practice medicine.
Seems ironic to invest 26 years of schooling and training, more than half million in educational costs, sacrifice precious moments with family and loved ones, suffer sleep deprivation by having no more than 4 hours/night for 15 years of my life, to anti-climatically leave the practice of medicine after spending my whole life pursuing it.
But like you, I think leaving medicine may be for the best, and for once the best for me and my loved ones, even if it may not the best for a total stranger, the fellow human being I vowed to place above all my own needs.
While I won’t retire from medicine for another 2400 days, at the age of 38, at the earliest, I am jumping up and down for your decision and new journey.
It is sad that the US as a whole treats us, those who decide to carry the weight of a fellow human being’s life on their shoulders in such an abusive and inhumane manner, starting from the very moment a starry eyed teenager decides to go to college and be a pre-med in high school. The demands on us are never ending and ever increasing, always, undoubtedly higher than those placed on any other profession known to men.
For those who persist in medicine, and bear such a burden daily while staying strong for themselves and their families, kudos to them. I’m amazed at their super-human powers and deeply honored to have fought, learned, striven, cried, fallen, and gotten up innumerable times next to them along this abusive, alienating, all consuming journey.
On the other hand, I’m happy that there are docs like you who recognize that we are humans after all, and that we have a life and definition of self beyond that of Dr. so and so, the medical hero who saves lives, and frequently so pre-occupied by a stranger’s life and death that he or she can’t be bothered by their own loved ones or their own dire human needs.
All because we signed up for a profession which demands that we put those human needs of others above our own.
Lots of love and great respect,
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