At some point during the course of your training, you will have an epiphany. You will realize as Gob Bluth says, "I've made a huge mistake."
As a physician you have very few options in making a course correction in your career. You must remain politically correct. You cannot offend others. You have to remain on the straight and narrow. Controversy is frowned upon. Often you can't speak your mind because you will offend someone in authority which can have significant repercussions on your career and livelihood. Do you want to get reported to the ethics committee because you have a stance on abortion or a gun control? Keep your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself.
It will probably hit you in the middle of the night and you will lie awake, heart racing, thinking about all of the years of your life that you have wasted and the dim light on the horizon just beyond which is the eternal yawning chasm of your grave. This will turn into a panic attack. Never fear, you will have the right drugs in your medicine cabinet to take the edge off a bit.
Once you've realized that you have made a terrible career choice and are in a straight-jacket you will start scrambling for a method of escape. What do you do now?
You have a mountain of debt that will follow you wherever you go for the rest of your life. You can't default. You can't declare bankruptcy-it doesn't apply to student loan debt. You can't wipe the slate clean.
So what do you do?
Soldier on? Sure. People who have retired and left medicine in disgust had higher expectations regarding salary, patient care, professionalism, and what it meant to be a doctor. You are being systematically broken down to continuously lower your expectations. You can keep practicing medicine and be amongst other miserable people. You will be in very good company. That is certainly the option that many people choose. You chip away at your debt and mortgage and it chips away at you until people are shoveling dirt onto your face when you're lowered six feet underground.
You can switch jobs. Sure. Lots of people have. Michael Crichton became a successful author. Many doctors have written books. Some of them great books. Sure give that a shot. Become the next great writer. You will have lots of material. Clearly.
Ken Jeong became a successful actor and comedian.
Become a Ben Carson. Or a Rand Paul. If you can't stomach medicine, maybe you can stomach politics.
How about something more positive? Can you follow your real passion? You've always wanted to be an artist. Do that. You should have done that in the first place. But do it now. If you can afford to.
Can you change careers? Sure. Do you have the resources or means to take care of your family and go back to school or do some type of training? Can you start your own business? If so, fantastic, do it! It may not be too late, but it's getting pretty damn close.
Sell out? Yes. You can certainly sell out. We will discuss that in a later blog post.
You will see others awakening to modern medicine. Naturopathic and holistic medicine are booming industries. It is certainly possible that it too will go the way of Western medicine and do more harm than good. One just needs to look at the supplement industry where every form of chicanery points to one part of that industry selling out.
The pharmaceutical industry which you as a physician will be associated with is no stranger to controversy and unethical practices.
There is a huge controversy surrounding vaccinations because people have, to an increasing extent, lost faith in the health care system and are losing trust in physicians.[JL2]
What happens if you're a surgeon and you injure your hands? If you're a radiologist and you go blind? If you're in a car wreck and break your neck? You are fucked. So I hope you have insurance.
Or just take the blue pill and go back to sleep. Tell yourself that all is ok. Follow the rules. Fill out the paperwork. Accept lower standards, longer hours, more bureaucracy, go to the meetings, do the advertising. Trust in the goodwill and vision of the administrative leadership. Believe that they have your best interests at heart. Keep telling yourself how lucky you are and how much you love your job. Run the treadmill. This is certainly an understandable recourse. Just go back to sleep.
There are the people in power in hospital systems, insurance companies, and administrative buildings, who rely on you following the rules while they run rings around you to control, coerce, and take advantage of you in the system that they have created and know so well.
When some doctors come to this realization, they find that it is far more lucrative and better for their careers if they go with the flow and join their corrupt overlords and you can find many of these former physicians in the halls of power at hospitals and insurance companies, and in business schools driving the system into the ground.
Follow the rules they will tell you. And there are thousands of them. Handbooks, Ethics Rules, Codes of Conduct, Hospital Policies, and on and on...
From the time you start medicine until the time you retire, you must walk rigidly along a tightrope - staring only at the rope and the position of your feet. You must remain focused and tense as you slowly make your way over the chasm of life. You will not have the time or energy to gaze at your wondrous surroundings and take in the view. You focus on the grim task of crossing the chasm to the other end - your grave or retirement.
As you march along this tightrope, winds will blow and weight will be added to your overburdened load. You will be scrutinized and harangued. You will be threatened with losing your license or privileges. A lawsuit, a poor outcome, thoughtless comments, an unpopular tweet, a DUI, an illness or injury, the loss of a loved one, and it all comes crashing down.
There is no safety net here. And there is no sympathy. You are a just silly circus performer who was stupid enough to choose the tightrope.