Flashback to a sunny morning in a small town in Indiana a few years ago. As bright as the day was, I was gloomy. I was a mix of fatigued, discouraged, stuck, unhappy, and just about ready to quit my career in medicine altogether. I was not sure what my next move would be, but what I knew was that I was tired of being tired.
I knew that I could not navigate my next steps alone; I knew that I was too overwhelmed, so I hired a coach to help guide me. It turned out that she worked with physicians, specifically, and – as comforting as that sounds – I actually felt guilty and ashamed of sharing my feelings about wanting to quit medicine with someone who was in the medical field. I feared potential judgement.
Eventually, though, I learned to reframe my mindset and be uncensored with my coach so that she could help me as effectively as possible. While working with her, it became evident that I do love medicine — I just don’t enjoy practicing it in the traditional 9-to-5 structure. This was an eye-opening revelation for me and has since pivoted my medical career in the direction I wanted it to go. Once I pinpointed my likes and dislikes, I reached a clearer understanding of the actions I needed to take next.
Here is a detailed breakdown of what I wanted, and the adjustments I made to suit those wants:
Want: To be flexible and free with my time
Action: Quit traditional practice and do locums instead
Want: To no longer be on call
Action: Pick locum assignments without call
Want: To work from home to avoid commuting
Action: Switch to telemedicine
Want: To practice medicine as a hobby
Action: Develop my side gig to support me financially, so I could work in telemedicine once a week
Making these changes has altered my life for the better, and I have witnessed other make similar adjustments. Here are some examples of how to live life on your own terms:
- Work from home doing utilization chart review with a side gig in health coaching
- Transition to an as-needed physician in academic medicine with a side gig in professional speaking
- Become a locum adult Hospitalist with a blogging side gig
- Switch to a different job in medicine, with a more compatible culture (for you)
If I can adjust my careers to suit my life, you can do it, too! If you are feeling frustrated or discouraged by your current position in medicine, leaving the field completely isn’t always the best fix. Rather, I encourage you to search for a way to practice medicine on your own terms!
Nana Korsah, MD is a Nephrologist, telemedicine Internist, and financial and life coach for physicians. This article was previously published at MD Work & Life Balance.