Both on the Physician Side Gigs Facebook group and offline, I talk to a lot of physicians about physician burnout, career redesign, developing ancillary income streams or pursuing passion projects, financial goals, and work life balance.
A recurring theme in my discussions is distilling down to your WHY - if you’re unfamiliar with this concept, I’d encourage you to take the 18 minutes to watch this TED talk by Simon Sinek, rightfully a classic.
Most of you probably didn’t just say, ‘I want to be a physician.’ You had experiences, desires, and goals that drove you there. And once you decided to do that, you put in your time learning (in my case, struggling) through organic chemistry to establish the building blocks, and you followed the blueprint on how to take your MCATs, apply to medical school, do well on your shelf exams, apply to residency, and pass your board exams.
The thing that I think a lot of us encounter difficulty with now when thinking outside of the box about our careers is that we’ve forgotten about the initial period where we embarked on the process. It’s been a long time since we had to think about why we wanted to do what we’re doing (for most of us since we picked a specialty), and since then, the path has seemed pretty set in stone.
We’re now in an era in medicine where that path to success isn’t necessarily as straightforward. The healthcare landscape has changed and physician demographics have changed, and it’s obvious that in order to have true career longevity, physicians are reconsidering what that path entails. Job stability isn't what it once was, physician burnout is on the rise, and devaluation of physician time is a constant theme. At the heart of what we do is something amazing (which I would never voluntarily give up), but tunnel vision in regards to our careers is risky, and not good for physicians - or patients.
We all have these ideal lives pictured in our heads, but we’re not sure how to get there. We hear about careers or opportunities that interest us and think, ‘Hey, I could do that!’ - but then are crippled by the daunting task of how to get there.
So first off -
Yes, you could - and should.
The one thing we really lack as physicians is time. It’s really our Achilles’ heal. After working a full day, I know that I just want to go home and relax with my family and friends, not study or work towards another goal - honestly, I already did that for a decade after college. But, I also know that I’m working towards maximizing the things I love most about my life, and so I’ve made a commitment to that. It’s always a work in progress, of course, and there are times where I just want to step back — and I do. The beauty of pursuing goals and side income while having a job as a physician (in my case, one that I love) is that there’s not a rapid need for change, so I’m doing it on my terms. Tips for the time issue here.
It's not that hard. It’s a different way of using your brain, but honestly, if you can memorize the Krebs cycle, you can figure out what you want from your life, you can figure out a financial plan and the understand the basics of investing, you can learn how to build a brand, and you can empower yourself with negotiation tools. You just need to make a commitment to doing so.
You can always have more publications, more titles, a more successful practice, and more money. But you can also always have more personal time, more time with your kids, more vacations, and more hobbies. It’s okay to think about that too when making career decisions. Seems obvious, but not something that’s often reiterated to each other as physicians.
I truly don’t think you can come up with a plan unless you know what the driving principles motivating you to commit to those things, and you can’t get others on board with your plan or your brand unless they believe in your mission. I know I’ve been a lot happier and had more success, personally and professionally, since I’ve figured out mine. As always, I encourage all physicians, regardless of their stage in their careers, to spend some time really thinking about their personal goals and needs - and avenues to get there.
*Disclosure: Some links are monetized, but genuine recommendations. Additional resources for figuring out your why, establishing side income streams, brand building, and pursuing passion projects as a physician here.