I was recently browsing through posts on Life Of A Med Student – one of my favorite medical student blogs. I came across this article – Is Medicine “Just a Job”, Like Anything Else?. It really opened my eyes to a different view on medicine and physician burnout. The author discusses an article he read regarding a secret that helps an emergency room team prevent burnout — the concept that “it’s just a job“.
One point that was highlighted in the article was that, due to the sacrifices and years we dedicate to this profession, we almost feel “entitled” to be praised and recognized for our achievements. This is probably why a lot of people think many physicians are “cocky and arrogant”. In a way, I can understand this viewpoint. If you dedicate 20+ years to a goal and you finally achieve it, wouldn’t you want to be recognized for your hard work? However, this is the problem and the reason why physicians are burning out. Many are working so hard for the approval of others. In my opinion, medicine is not a “trophy career” for show – medicine is a career where we work hard to fight for every single life that we have the chance to change.
For myself and the majority of my classmates, going into medicine is not only a career choice, but a lifelong commitment. As medical professionals in a world of ever-changing medical knowledge, we are constantly studying and learning to become more knowledgeable – even after we graduate with the degree. This is the reason we have to go to years of school for medicine, residency to choose a specialty, and fellowships after to become even more specialized — in addition to the continuing medical education credits we are required to complete annually. Medicine is a never-ending learning opportunity.
So, is medicine really ‘just a job’? This how one physician explains his secret of preventing burnout. One quote that resonated with me from the article was this:
“Our role is to be there, provide comfort, alleviate suffering, listen and be engaged. We don’t HAVE to feel every bit of it viscerally, but certainly there will be times where we truly connect and we will. But it’s also OK when we don’t. We don’t have to take every single emotion home, internalize it, and make it part of our being.”
I agree with what both authors are saying. Yes, medicine is a lifestyle. We are fully invested in our patients and are often emotionally connected with them on many levels. But as mentioned above, we don’t have to take it all home with us. It’s okay to feel in the moment, but it’s not necessary to “make it a part of our being”. This is the boundary we need to ensure we make, because while we are concerned about everyone else’s health, it’s important to be sure ours is in optimal condition first.
I do believe that medicine is not just your ‘ordinary job’. It definitely takes a special kind of person to be a physician and dedicate your life to a career like this. But I also agree that there IS a way to separate our job with our lifestyle, no matter how difficult it may seem.