Doctors need to transform their careers into hobbies

I have some friends who love cars.  It’s not like they’ve had any formal schooling on cars, but they seem to know a disturbing wealth of minutiae about them. Engine manufacturing nuances. Why the crossover line of a particular make looks like an anthropomorphic version of its brethren. To them, possessing knowledge of a topic that likely serves no benefit to meeting their basic life needs creates enjoyment in life. What is amazing is that this passion can sometimes develop into something more substantial and actually serve as a means to pay one’s rent. Who doesn’t want to be the next telecommunications major (some parents would consider this a “party” degree) who lands his own television show because he was able to carve out a niche out of millions of others wanting to do the same thing?

Somehow I doubt that my friend’s affinity to Lamborghinis will ever materialize into anything beyond a way to spend his money.

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Doctors, on the other hand, are in an interesting predicament. Our careers are very empowering, and have potential to confer incredibly high levels of satisfaction through healing others.  Our skills can also command relatively high financial compensation. It really does sound too good to be true.  What’s not to like about career satisfaction and money?

Medicine is a flawed profession

Some of my more cynical colleagues will ask, “What’s there to like about medicine?” We all have our stories about how healthcare can go wrong, and why we don’t like it. Some of us tolerate these flaws more than others, but none of us truly enjoy dealing with them.  I frankly can’t figure out if healthcare systems outside of the U.S. actually have it better. Do doctors in Canada bask in a universal care system while relegating themselves to lower income? I find that difficult to believe since I know plenty of specialists in Canada who quadruple their governmental incomes through privatized means of medical practice. Those of you in the know, please sound out in the comments!

It always looks fun until it becomes your daily job.

Example Case

One of my coworkers spent his entire career dedicated to medicine. He worked long hours, missed many of his children’s milestones, and went on trips to provide healthcare to much needed parts of the world. He was very successful during his early career, and essentially practiced medicine the last decade of his career solely because for the enjoyment of caring for others. At the time of his retirement, he still was very proficient in his clinical abilities but he loathed the ancillary aspects of daily practice.  Salary cuts, paperwork, meetings—all of this began to drain his vigor in medicine.  Fortunately he planned his financial future well, and hung up his hat in style.

Interestingly enough, within several months of his retirement he secured a volunteer position giving care to the indigent, and ramped up his charitable work with medical mission trips that constitutes nearly full-time “work”. That’s right, no monetary compensation for doing nearly the same job that he was doing while in clinical practice.

He is living proof that medicine is a profession/calling that can produce happiness if some variables can be eliminated. By doing so, the practice of medicine essentially was transformed into his hobby.

Medicine as a calling rather than a job

There are several characteristics of medical practice that need to be met in order for it to be considered a hobby:

  • Ability to walk away from it without any financial or lifestyle impact
  • Ability to return to practice without much impediment
  • Freedom to choose how to diagnose and treat our patients with minimal restriction by governing entities
  • Practice that challenges our mind

As in the case with the retired doctor, medical volunteer work typically fits the bill. Volunteers often have limited resources but also are not restricted by regulations that govern typical medical practice. The work is challenging as it applies our medical knowledge to unfamiliar situations.  Our time with volunteering is finite, so there is a clear time where we can walk away from it all.

How do we untie the shackles of our medical career? Everyone is in a different situation, and you have to figure out how how to make the best out of your situation.

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For all of us, the first challenge is to reduce your dependency on your medical career for your lifestyle. It is not the mindset that most doctors expected to have, but we are in an ideal position that allows us to do so. This isn’t a calling to get out of medicine! You don’t have to give up your decade of training to run a food truck! Remember that medical practice still gives you great financial firepower. The key is to use that to your advantage to become more financially independent. Once that becomes realized, you will realize much more flexibility in your life.

Go ahead. Take that step, and find your formula to transform your career into a hobby.

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