My Burnout Story

It’s no secret that medicine has an epidemic of burnout plaguing it. I’ve read a number of articles both in journals and blogs outlining the sometimes stunning statistics regarding physician burnout, including this article from White Coat Investor.

Today, however, it is not my intention to discuss burnout in a dry, statistical sense. Today, I want to discuss a burnout story near and dear to my heart, my own.

The Beginning

I determined that I was going to be a physician roughly around the age of four. OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but I was pretty young. I don’t remember dreaming of being anything else. After studying hard in high school and college, I entered medical school with my intellectual and professional flame burning brightly.

Four years of medical school and three years of residency later, that flame was burning a bit, shall we say, dimmer. I was tired, just like everyone else that has gone through residency. I started studying personal finance pretty intently near the end of my intern year. This had two effects on me. One, I began to get my personal financial house in order, which was helpful. Unfortunately, it also allowed my massive student loan debt to weigh on my mind 24/7.

This can be problematic for someone entering the primary care field, where my paycheck will never touch those of some of my specialty colleagues. With that set up, I then proceeded to make a very large mistake.

Forgetting the Mission

I got into medicine because I loved it, pure and simple. I loved the intellectual curiosity and the personal connection with my patients. There was no money involved. I would still be a physician even if my paycheck was much lower than it is now.

As residency ended and I searched for my first job, I promptly forgot everything that made me choose medicine. With my financial position squarely at the forefront of my mind, I signed up to work for the place where I thought I could grow my practice, and consequently my paycheck, the fastest.

In short, it was a disaster. Sure, my practice grew. I enjoyed treating my patients, and they seemed to enjoy having me as their doctor. Every day though, I would drive home and wonder what my life had become. That kid that dreamed about being a doctor and helping people had turned into a money hungry young professional who would count the number of patients on his schedule and get frustrated if it was less than twenty-five.

I forgot everything about my personal position and what my mission was in my career and life, and that is the fastest route to burnout that I know.

The Change

It didn’t take long before I hit rock bottom and informed my employer that I was done. It was one of the lowest points of my professional life. I was a young physician with large debt, no real career path, and a rapidly diminishing sense of who I was.

There are many situations where this could end much worse than it did, but with the help of friends and family, I gradually found my way. I found a new job with a healthcare system that fits my ideals. The pay was lower, but the job satisfaction was much higher.

And sure enough, you tend to do well when you work in situation where you know exactly why you show up to work every day and enjoy that purpose. Eventually, I was given an administrative role in addition to my clinical duties, and TheBossMD was born.

So please don’t take it as fluff when I say that the personal element of your position is the most important part of who you are. I know firsthand the effect that losing yourself can have on your life.

I will be speaking on the blog more about how managing your finances responsibly can be instrumental to you accomplishing your goals. Don’t worry, however, my focus will always be on how to make your finances work for you, not the other way around. Trust me, you don’t want go there.