Med School Hell – The Medicine Work Ethic

This post is raw and holds nothing back. If you’re uncomfortable with vulgar language, please turn back.

October 7, 2007
By: Hoover


This is a reply to a comment made by Johnny Youngblood. I’m not calling Johnny out personally, but I think his comment exemplifies the way an average medical student thinks.

I really don’t want to hear another medical student, resident, or physician complain about the money. Lots of people work overtime. Lots of people work 2 jobs. Very few make 6 figures by the time they’re 30.

He makes some very valid points with his comment, and it’s absolutely true that few people are pulling in six-figure incomes by 30 years of age.

Having a strong work ethic is important, but you need to realize that working hard does not equal working smart. Many who have graduated from the school of medical training think that if you’re not working every waking minute that you’re slacking. I absolutely know some of you feel this way now — I used to feel that way myself, especially early during my medical training.

Working two jobs, excessive hours, or any combination of the two is just plain inefficient. Sure, many people do it. It’s not wrong, per se, but it’s also not right for many people. Working like this leads to faster burnout rates, decreased productivity, and overall decreased well-being.

Do you really love your job as a medical professional? Not just happy doing it, but I mean really love it. My guess is that most people will probably — deep down inside — say no. Whether you want to admit it or not, for most of you I bet that medicine is a decent job with lots of status and above average pay. Nothing more, nothing less.

What I Did

As most of you probably know by now, I got enough of medicine during medical school. I didn’t want to pull the ridiculous hours doing something that I wasn’t too excited about to begin with. Somewhere around the beginning of my junior year, I started pondering exactly what I wanted out of life. For me, medicine didn’t fill any of my expectations. I could care less about status, but I wanted to make a comfortable living and be able to do so with more free time that I could get out of a lifetime of call and pagers.

Some called me a slacker, others thought I was lazy. I’m actually the exact opposite.

You see, my work ethic is stronger than most of the students that I went to school with. We just think differently. My classmates — and countless medical students like them — have been brainwashed into thinking that you must work your entire life doing something that you may or may not like. My brain was once programmed along the same frequency.

During my junior year after I started having second thoughts of medicine, I used to sit and daydream about what life would be like to not have to go to a job that you hated. I wanted to be excited about what I did for a living. I wanted to love it.

Daydreams soon turned into a burning desire and obsession to find the meaning of life for me. My parents told me I was crazy. My wife didn’t support me at first. My grandma began to worry about me. They were all preaching ‘a house, a wife, a job, a white picket fence, and 2.5 kids.’ After all, that’s the American Dream right?

Medicine could give me a nice house with a white picket fence, and I could afford 2.5 kids and sail off into the sunset pulling the same routine until I’m 65 and become one of those old docs who are too senile to really practice anymore, but still show up to grand rounds for the free meal and CME credit. But hell no, I didn’t want that. That’s what everybody didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that I needed to do this for me.

Leap Of Faith

I wanted the ability to work from wherever I choose. I wanted to be able to go to the gym at 11:00 am or midnight. I wanted to be able to take as long as I wanted for lunch, and not to have to ask permission to take a piss. I wanted to call all of the shots without the political bullshit that accompanies most positions of power. I wanted to be able to take a two-week vacation at the drop of a hat and then extend it to four weeks when I realize what a fun damn time I’m having. I wanted to stay up until 3 am if I felt like it or sleep in until noon. I wanted freedom. After all, these are the best years of my life and I sure as hell was not getting any younger.

I soon realized that being an entrepreneur was what I wanted. I wanted it more than anything. I worked my ass off, but I was finally enjoying my work. In fact, I loved it and still love it to this day. My businesses took off. I then began to launch passive streams of income. I’m now happier than I’ve ever been in my life.

I knew what I wanted. I saw other people living great lives with an abundance of happiness and I knew I could have that too. I didn’t sit on the fence and cry that I couldn’t have that life too. I went out and did something about it.

I contribute it all to the medicine work ethic.

Dear Medicine,

Although I dislike your training practices very much, I would like to thank you for the strong work ethic that you have taught me. Many countless hours studying for your shelf exams and Steps taught me valuable time management skills that I use to be successful today. Seeing many overworked physicians who were unhappy and complaining about their paycheck made me desire something more. Had I not seen the light because of you, I might have been just another pawn in a never- ending game.

It was worth the months on surgery and OB/GYN. Every prostate that I examined made me want something better out of life. I am thankful that you gave me the adequate number of prostates to examine. Each pelvic exam, while oftentimes smelly and always unpleasant, taught me that I must persevere.

Every attending surgeon that ever belittled me during rounds or in the OR gave me a thick skin. I have used that thick skin while failing numerous times on my way to victory. Each case I scrubbed helped to build my foundation of freedom.

The long nights on call taught me that I’m not that efficient while sleep deprived. Now, I always work well-rested. Thank you medicine, I’ve increased my productivity because of you.

I now work smarter instead of harder, and it’s because of you. You have given me so much — the drive and desire to not be unhappy with life. The drive and desire to do something I am passionate about. The drive and desire to finally be free.

Thank you, Medicine, for four years of hell. Had it not been for those four years, I might have spent a lifetime consumed by fire.

The Bottom Line

You can bitch and moan all you want about the decreasing pay or increasing work hours, just like I did. Just make sure you do something about it — turn all of those negative emotions into positive actions.

Are you convinced to leave medicine? If so, you may feel like you are alone. You may feel clueless about what to do next. However, quitting medicine could turn out better than you have ever thought possible. And here is why you should get out …

This article is part of Hoover’s Med School Hell series. Med School Hell reveals the crazy truth about the crappiness of the US medical education and healthcare system … while making you laugh so hard, you’ll crap in your pants.

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