As children, many of us learn to view doctors as heroes—and with good reason. Plenty of us even grow up wanting to be one (hey, we didn’t know about med school at the time).
But when it comes time to make a career choice, it’s wise to think about the lifestyle medicine will provide. That’s why you’re here.
As we said, physicians are heroes. So there’s no doubt about whether a career as a physician is rewarding. But with all the rewards come risks like intense physical activity, emotional strain, and heavy stressors that can lead to burnout.
Everyone views these pros and cons differently, but there are ways to mitigate some of the negative realities of this career path—primarily by making sure to take care of yourself just as well as you would any patient.
When deciding whether you want to become a physician, the first step is learning what the position entails. Discover the perks you’ll enjoy and the challenges you’ll face as a physician.
What are the main responsibilities of a physician?
Physicians are responsible for ensuring their patients’ well-being and, at times, providing life-saving diagnoses and treatments. But what does this look like in practice? On a basic level, doctors,
- Examine patients
- Provide direct patient care
- Understand patients’ medical histories
- Perform diagnostic testing
- Teach and advise patients
- Create treatment plans
- Prescribe medication
- Work in a team of nurses, specialists, and other healthcare professionals
What are the benefits of the physician profession?
Let’s start by looking at the bright side: This is a service-oriented role, which means physicians get to help people all day. This may be the most obvious benefit, but here are some others to consider:
- A great job outlook: There’s always a demand for healthcare professionals, which means doctors should have no trouble finding a job. Plus, they’ll be rewarded well when they do, as this is a high-paying role.
- An opportunity for lifelong learning: Physicians must keep up with the latest advances in medicine, which means their minds are always active. Sure, one might need a breather after medical school, but lifelong learning is enriching and stimulating. As a physician, you’ll have the opportunity to expand your knowledge daily.
- A tailor-made career: Because there are so many ways to specialize in medicine, doctors and other healthcare professionals have the unique opportunity of following the path that most interests them, from emergency medicine to anesthesiology and beyond. What could offer better job satisfaction than doing what you love?
What are the main challenges of the physician profession?
We’ve all heard about the stress of studying to become a doctor, but this is just the start. Any role in which you have peoples’ lives and well-being in your hands comes with its share of challenges. Here are a few challenges physicians face:
- Long hours: After a grueling four years of pre-med, four years of med school, and residency, doctors are slammed with long shifts. Some roles allow for a bit more control over when and how long you work, but no matter what you do, you’ll almost always be on call.
- Lots of stress: You have your patients’ health in your hands, and sometimes situations will be out of your control. Doctors in certain specialties regularly lose patients, and this can be an emotional stressor. And no matter what area you’re in, you’ll work with a high sense of responsibility and carefulness, which can be exhausting.
- Debt and liability: Medical school is expensive (so be sure to take advantage of our student discount), and you may have student loans to pay off after graduation. So, even if you’re earning well, you could have some big bills. Then there’s a liability to consider, as you may have to take out an expensive insurance policy to cover your medical practice.
What is physician burnout?
Debt, liability, long hours, and job-related stress can all lead to burnout. Medical professionals are no strangers to this condition. Even family physicians who traditionally keep regular work hours and offer outpatient, non-urgent services are experiencing a spike in stress. The pandemic hasn’t helped anyone either, whether they practice family medicine or work in the ER.
It’s important to treat burnout as seriously as any other mental health issue. High levels of stress can lead to physical ailments, compassion fatigue, and mistakes that could harm you and others. Here are some ways that a physician’s lifestyle choices can increase their risk of burnout:
Emotional exhaustion & a lack of self-care
This career comes with a lot of stress. The long hours and heavy workload don’t help you achieve a healthy work-life balance.
If you don’t practice stress management, exhaustion can catch up to you. As fun as a spa day, wine tasting, weekend getaway, or whatever your favorite relaxing pastime is, they’re probably not enough to mitigate your exhaustion. We recommend finding mind-clearing activities that you like to do regularly, such as yoga, walking, and meditation. We also highly recommend seeking professional help from a therapist or joining a support group.
Poor eating habits
We don’t always eat our best when we’re on the go. Sometimes, it’s easier to grab something from the vending machine or order fast food, but you don’t need to be a doctor to know that these nutritional choices won’t help you perform your best.
We recommend establishing a weekly meal plan and preparing healthy meals loaded with brain-boosting nutrients (or subscribing to a food service that delivers this kind of food). Looking out for yourself in this way doubles as self-care. If you can find the time to get creative in the kitchen, you may find that cooking relaxes you.
We know healthcare professionals are some of the hardest-working people out there, so we make it our mission to work hard for you, too. We make scrubs that check all the boxes, so you can cross finding the perfect workwear off your (probably already lengthy) to-do list.