Passion In Medicine, Is It A Necessity?

Authored by: Stephen D.

Disclaimer, I’m in medicine, doing grunt work as a PGY-3, and signing up for a fellowship in critical care, so I’m a bit of a masochist for long hours and sick patients.

I didn’t consider it my “calling,” but I certainly couldn’t imagine doing anything else as a premed. I didn’t get to truly love and appreciate medicine until my clinical years when I could actually tie in what I learned in med school and even college physics (all that crap about things you resent for having to study and think you would never need to know like Bernoulli’s principle show up in surprising ways in subspecialties). But I would say you should have a healthy dose of passion for the field prior to signing up for it because there is significant sacrifice to become a doctor. It’s an incredible amount of training that shouldn’t be overlooked. Moreover, I feel to be a good clinician, you should end up prioritizing medicine often over than your own comfort / family/friends’ weddings/birthdays etc. It’s that kind of reality check that I feel is not highlighted enough and people end up resenting the most about medicine and burn out quickest. I’ve seen residents complain that their acutely decompensating patient “had” to happen right at sign out, preventing them from leaving on time, or feeling that certain tasks were “beneath” them and considered scut. In reality, patients don’t choose when to get sick, and while I am astutely aware of ACGME duty hour requirements, it’s meant to prevent ABUSE of habitually staying too late. Part of the white collar physician’s job also means also getting your hands dirty once in a while and for example, grab HIPPA release forms, get it consented for release, and fax it to medical records at outside institutions.

It should be expected that as a physician, you sometimes have to deal with the “service” part of the job description and suck it up without depending on ancillary services. If you are the type of person who can not prioritize patients without resentment, have too much pride to perform anything from phlebotomy to a manual disimpaction, I would suggest looking for alternative or less intensive fields in healthcare. There are so many paths into medicine that it would be foolish to stubbornly choose the physician route, accept it “as a job” and burn out quickly. I’m from the NYC area and I’ve seen way too many young doctors commit suicide over the hopelessness that they feel when they realize this too late. For this reason, I always encourage premeds and even residents applying for fellowship that they should at least be extremely passionate for learning medicine before signing up for further training.

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