Being a medical doctor is not easy and, according to a survey conducted in 2016, around 50% of the interviewed physicians reported feelings of burnout, while 80% reported lack of time to see new patients. The research, titled 2016 Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives was conducted on behalf of The Physicians Foundation and it led to surprising results. Many of the surveyed doctors stated that their job satisfaction, overall, was low and decreasing fast.
What was even more concerning, was that around 50% of the doctors would not recommend this profession to their children, whereas more than 70% of physicians described “patient relationships” as the most satisfying aspect of medical practice, while almost 50% said “regulatory/paperwork burdens” was the least satisfying aspect of their job.
These results are congruent with ones reported back in 2014 and foretell even lower job satisfaction on many levels in the years to come. From this point of view, the situation begs the following question: is being a doctor really worth it.
Today we will take a few step backs and look at the medical profession from a broader angle, trying to see the bigger picture. Of course being a doctor is extremely rewarding and today we will learn at least five reasons why it is so.
1. Doctors are able to really make the world a better place
Changing the field of medicine and reshaping the world, as we know it is probably one of the most powerful reasons for which young people decide to dedicate themselves to this profession. What would this world be without Joseph Lister, Edward Jenner, Helen Brooke Taussig and many, many others?
Some pioneers in medicine are now revered as saviors, while others managed to find cures and treatments to diseases that wiped out entire populations in the past. We would be nowhere today in this world without doctors being courageous visionaries and determined scientists.
Modern medicine is one of the most attractive fields of study and of practice in our time and day because physicians are truly able to help people and make them happy, restoring hope for them and their families.
Either a doctor’s perfect diagnosis and course of treatment saves somebody’s life, or a doctor’s involvement in the research of a new medicine pushes the science further, helping future generations, there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you left such a legacy to the world.
We should not forget that today we are experimenting with effective cures of cancer and the results are quite promising. We have come a long way up to this point, and, in the near future the challenges will probably be tremendous but without the doctors involved in such projects we would have no hope to cling on.
2. Medicine is a stable job and safe career
In developed countries, doctors are very well paid and for all the right reasons. Nobody should be shy or ashamed to admit that doctors make a lot of money. The medical profession plays with big numbers on all levels. For instance, a physician’s assistant salary in the United States is about $55,209, while a cardiac surgeon’s salary in the United States is around $347,854.
Of course, salaries and financial gain is a secondary benefit to the main one: being among the ones able to save lives and make the world a better place. You will hear many doctors complain more about paperwork and politics in healthcare than their salaries, meaning that sometimes the paycheck does not and will not overcompensate for the flaws in the system, their overextended work, the burnout, and the negative aspects of the job.
However, when it comes to job satisfaction, doctors are among the best paid professionals to date. Making a difference is usually more important than the salary. Otherwise, why would we have doctors volunteering in conflict zones around the world, making a change in poorly developed countries or in places where disease threaten to wipe out entire populations?
Plenty of doctors volunteer in “hot zones” around the world because they feel they can truly honor the medical act and genuinely care for their patients in the absence of bureaucracy, policies, the burdens of medical systems, and so on.
3. Being a doctor today means shaping the future
Just as the doctors of today recognizing and revering the doctors of yesterday, they also hope they will become in turn the models of good practices of future generations. Modern medicine is at its highest point, with science and technology joining in and helping doctors find solutions humanity did not have a mere decade ago.
The rise of hi-tech medicine is a challenge, a pride, and a privilege for all doctors who want to lay the foundation of future, better health. Some of them will see their names in the paper in relationship to revolutionary treatments and techniques, while others will spend their life taking pride in the fact that they were there, that during their lifetime the medical practice went a step further and traveled where nobody has ever traveled before.
Let us remember that the science and research of medicine just recently discovered a new human organ nobody knew about until 2017. What medical student does not want to be in the shoes of J. Calvin Coffey, the researcher from the University Hospital Limerick in Ireland, who first discovered that the mesentery was a distinct organ, thus updating about 100 years of incorrect human anatomy?
We only need to read the daily health and science news to learn that medicine is progressing every minute and the discoveries are blowing our minds, while giving us hope to better, longer, lives that are more satisfactory? Throw in stem cells therapy and 3D printing of transplant organs and you will realize that the people making such things possible are the doctors offering their minds and souls to the greater good of humankind.
4. Being a doctor means being a teacher and a mentor for each patient
We do not even refer to the academic side of medicine, where doctors teach medical students. We refer to doctors being teachers every minute of every day – their students being their patients. Medicine done right means empowering people to work towards their own better health.
Being a doctor means being the light shining in the darkness of poor knowledge or ignorance. Being a doctor means saving patients sometimes from themselves.
One of the major challenges doctors face in our modern times is the online self-diagnosing people often engage in. However, online self-diagnosis comes with a handful of drawbacks and dangers for the patient checking their own symptoms into a web browser.
Recent studies show that symptom checkers may actually do more harm than good. It is true, doctors do have to wear this extra burden on their shoulders, as from healers they also become teachers, but this is one of the most important parts of the medical profession.
Educating people, empowering them towards responsibility, offering them the right solutions to prevention and intervention is a major aspect of any doctor’s job. Helping patients to help themselves is one of the reasons many young people choose the medical career instead of another – which, in all truth, may actually pay better.
5. Doctors are the best team players
Few other fields’ success depends on the full coordination, cooperation, and team work as medicine does. There would be no successful surgeries without the performance of anesthesiologists and OR nurses and there would be no medical breakthroughs in medical engineering without doctors and engineers closely working together.
Medicine is a growing field, as we showed above. We have talked about low job satisfaction in the beginning of this article and the results do not lie. Many doctors – later in the career – begin to feel the effects of the decade-long life and money invested in their education, the effects of burnout, the stress, the long hours, the lack of time, the burden of politics and economics, and so on and so forth.
At the end of the day, we cannot pretend we do not understand the ones who want to exit the profession or retire earlier.
However, each doctor is and feels like a critical member of the health team, and essential cog and wheel in a machinery that is bigger than they are. No matter the technological advancements of our times, medicine cannot still be outsourced or automated. The world still needs every single person involved in health care delivery and it needs passionate, dedicated, outstanding professionals.
If we take a look at the statistics, we can easily understand, even without empirical data, that we should treat our doctors better or at least offer them more time and more satisfactory working environments so they can perform their profession and live up to the oath they took.
Burdening them with bureaucracy, paperwork, and confusing politics and policies will not make the medical act more efficient. However, there are still great reasons out there for being a doctor, from a great salary to the opportunity to reshape medicine, young med school students should know that being a doctor is as rewarding as it is difficult.