Advertisement

 

 

Choosing a Medical Specialty & Balancing Life

Author Information (click to view)

Skeptical Scalpel

Skeptical Scalpel is a recently retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and a surgical sub-specialty and has re-certified in both several times. For the last two years, he has been blogging at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweeting as @SkepticScalpel. His blog averages over 900 page views per day, and he has over 6200 followers on Twitter.

+


Skeptical Scalpel (click to view)

Skeptical Scalpel

Skeptical Scalpel is a recently retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and a surgical sub-specialty and has re-certified in both several times. For the last two years, he has been blogging at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweeting as @SkepticScalpel. His blog averages over 900 page views per day, and he has over 6200 followers on Twitter.

Advertisement
I was so taken with an anonymous comment posted on my blog about the difficulty in choosing a medical specialty, that I wanted to give it more exposure.
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

The following was posted anonymously as a comment on a blog I wrote about the difficulty one has in choosing a medical specialty. I was so taken with it that I wanted to give it more exposure. [Note: The comment contained a few typos, which I have corrected. Otherwise it is unchanged.] My response has been amplified slightly.

Since you are so senior to me, let me ask you for your thoughts. I got into medical school, studied, worked hard, got into residency and learned, spent hours and hours in the hospital, loved critical care and got into fellowship. Along the way met a guy (both were residents at that time), fell in love, and we both dreamt and read and learned and discussed cases. He decided on cardiology and I decided on critical care. Both got into fellowships …. worked hard, spent long hours in fellowship … we were committed. We ARE committed but divided…. We had kids, and now every day I feel divided. I have a feeling that all “old timers ” like you who worked for longer hours and did frequent night calls had a ” spouse” who would take care of your kids, and you did not have to worry as much. Times were different. Times were not so dangerous, and kids’ safety outside of the house was not so concerning.

In my situation, my spouse and I are both physicians in fields that require us to spend lots and lots of hours in the hospital. If I were to find a traditional practice and work every 3rd night, who would raise my kids? Who would teach them right from wrong? Everything is on the rise – drug abuse, physical abuse, dropout rates. I WANT to raise my kids and be there to guide them. So, yes, I want a practice where call frequency is less, where I can spend evenings with my kids (not because I want to have fun, but I want to be there).

We do not think about all this when we get into medical school, I did not think about this when I married my husband, and we did not think about this when we chose our subspecialities. Perhaps that was a mistake.

It was easier for us. There were far fewer women in medical school. My class of 180 had only 20 women in it. Our chances of marrying another doctor were much lower, especially since same-sex marriage was not in vogue back then. I was fortunate to have married a woman who is both a nurse and a saint. She took 13 years off from work to raise the children.

For you, taking time off would be very difficult. Have you thought about joining a group and working part-time, maybe with shorter hours and fewer nights on call?

I was touched by your palpable internal turmoil. My heart goes out to you. I hope you can find the balance you seek. Your last paragraph sums it up. Everyone in medical school should read it.

Do you think she made a mistake? What should she do now?

Skeptical Scalpel is a recently retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and a surgical sub-specialty and has re-certified in both several times. For the last two years, he has been blogging at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweeting as @SkepticScalpel. His blog averages over 900 page views per day, and he has over 6,200 followers on Twitter.

4 Comments

  1. I had many of the same thoughts as the author, but I’m luckier in the sense that I realized it during medical school. At the end of third year, I ended up switching my specialty choice after I realized that I’m happiest when I’m doing something I love AND when I have time for a healthy life outside of medicine. The specialty I was originally considering fascinated and invigorated me, but when I realized my attendings were in the hospital 16-18 hrs almost daily, I realized the specialty would’ve made it incredibly difficult to do anything outside of medicine, much less raise a family in a manner I’d be satisfied with. I’m now a first year resident in a field that I absolutely love, and even though my hours are long now, it makes me happy when I see attendings arriving at 7, leaving at 6, and trading stories of baseball games and birthday parties over cases. I remember in medical school, old school attendings derided me for asking about work/life balance, but I’m really happy I prioritized it. I hope future med students take it into consideration as well.

    With regard to the subject of the post, I agree with Skeptical Scalpel’s advice: Work part time or in a place with less demanding hours. It sounds like she really values time with her kids and won’t be happy without that. The good news is that having two parents as physicians should (hopefully) afford her the financial flexibility to work less.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I’m glad you worked things out.

      Reply
    • I find it difficult to take family into account when one wants children eventually but isn’t currently in that situation. Right now, I want to pursue whichever specialty I find most interesting, but I have to keep in the back of my mind that I will one day want to spend enough time with my children and have work/life balance. Do you mind me asking which specialty you originally considered, and which specialty you ended up in? And do you like the second specialty just as much as the first?

      Thanks!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eighteen − 16 =

[ HIDE/SHOW ]