Over the past few years, my persona as Nisha Mehta, MD has evolved, and I've been thinking a lot about my WHY (if you're not familiar with the concept of the WHY, check out Simon Sinek's TED talk here).
We all wear a lot of hats. Mine, variably emphasized depending on the moment, include: radiologist, mother, wife, daughter, friend, speaker, writer, physician advocate, travel enthusiast, networker, avid lover of chocolate. I know that we're all in the same boat when I say that there never seems to be enough time to do everything I want. So WHY take on the writing and the speaking in addition to being a full time physician and family member?
The training path in medicine is fairly well delineated: pre-med classes, medical school, residency, fellowship, attending life. For over a decade, life consists of starting one chapter and preparing for the next. There's a lot that happens during that journey, but for most, not a lot of opportunities to pause and consider whether they are creating the lives that they want. Even when we arrive at the end of the road, finding this time is difficult, and for many, even harder, as we now have to focus on the other aspects of our lives that have been put on the back-burner while we also continue to work long hours and establish our practices. In time, many of us realize that we've given up parts of ourselves -- and unfortunately, some of those parts were key contributors to our happiness.
My life in medicine is hardly unique. I am a full time physician, married to a surgeon, with two young sons. Over the years, I've struggled with what most physicians struggle with: balancing my role as a doctor with my role as a family member and an individual. It's not always pretty, and it's constantly being reassessed and adjusted, but I'm fortunate to say that I'm honestly very happy with my life in medicine.
The physician burnout epidemic has risen dramatically over the past decade, as changes in the healthcare landscape and physician demographics have increased the stressors of an already stressful field. Physician burnout matters on a personal level as well as on a societal level, and needs to be addressed on various fronts, many of which are institutional and national.
On an individual level as well, change is necessary. As physicians, we tend to typecast ourselves into a physician persona that may or may not align with our various hats. Physician culture has traditionally been to place our physician persona at the forefront of our lives, with the rest of our hats molding to fit this centerpiece. I'm a strong believer that it doesn't need to be this way.
We should start with being honest with ourselves about who we are and what we want, and speaking about issues that have traditionally been taboo to emphasize because they're not directly related to patient care (family, work-life balance, money, to name a few), and build strong physician networks. We need to encourage each other to stand up for our worth, and our needs. By doing this, we can change physician culture to reflect today's demographics and stressors and carve out the lives in medicine that work for us on an individual level. Maybe that's overly optimistic, but I'm reminded of a quote by Steve Jobs, "The people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do."
My WHY is to encourage physicians to live the lives that are most fulfilling to them, both personally and professionally. Like my life in medicine, my WHY is always evolving. The more I write and the more of you I interact with and meet, the more different topics pique my interest. At the core, I am committed to talking about life in medicine and changes necessary for physician well-being, and to fostering physician networks and communities that provide physicians with a voice and opportunities. I hope you'll follow my journey, and share yours!
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