Blog | Tuesday, June 2, 2015

3 things physicians should tell themselves after a bad day at the office


Being a doctor is one of the most emotionally and physically demanding professions out there. The health care landscape may have changed a lot over the last decade, but the basic unavoidable grueling nature of medical practice has been the same for time immemorial. I remember reading a careers advice book when I was a teenager telling me just that; namely that being a doctor was “the most challenging of jobs”, and to be absolutely sure before walking the career path. All this time later, I realize how true those words were—and then some.

Whether it's an unsuccessful outcome, difficult patient, administrative clash, or excessive workload; there are plenty of reasons to come home feeling exhausted and jaded. When this next happens, here are 3 things to tell yourself to perk yourself up a bit:

1. Life can be a whole lot worse

Thought you had a bad day? At least you are the doctor and not the patient. It may sound very rudimentary, but how easy is it to take for granted that you are the 1 in the white coat and others around you are suffering. One day it could well be you. In the meantime, cherish the fact that you are the healthy one (hopefully). Because nothing comes before good health and the ability to live life free of serious illness or disability.

2. High pay

I can only speak as someone who has had experience working in the USA and UK, but almost all physicians in both countries comfortably find themselves in the top 5% or more of the country in terms of income. Got that? More than 95% of citizens likely earn less than you. This holds true even after physicians' not insignificant debt burden per month. Most people couldn't dream of earning as much as doctors, neither do most people have the talent, intelligence and persistence to become one. You also live in America, which by itself puts you in the top percentile of the world. The United Nations estimates that 2.7 billion, almost 50% of the world's population, live on less than $2 a day. It's only by the grace of God or sheer luck (depending on what you believe) that you are not one of them.

3. Meaningful job

You don't mop floors and don't carry bricks across construction sites. Physicians may not always realize it during the hustle and bustle of a typical day, but you are held in high respect by the vast majority of your patients and also society at large. Telling anyone you are a doctor is something you should be proud of accomplishing. The amount of trust placed in your decisions is humbling. A lot of any professional's respect is self-made, and if you really feel disrespected and unvalued at every turn—perhaps it may be time for some self-reflection as well? No physician should ever go home feeling like they haven't done something important that has made a positive difference in someone's life, typically at a time when that person is at their lowest point in life too.

Being a physician has tremendous rewards and also challenges. Tell yourself the above 3 whenever you are driving home frustrated. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to make things better or look for other things that fulfill you (nobody should ever stick with something they really don't like)—but it does mean that you should keep those daily frustrations in perspective.

Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care. This post originally appeared at his blog.