What do you like and dislike about your career in medicine? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
The very best thing about being a doctor are the interactions and relationships I've had with patients and their family members. It's exceptionally satisfying to understand just how much they trust me to give my best effort in helping them in really difficult circumstances. I take care of patients with cancer. It's an incredible challenge because the medical outcome doesn't always turn out well.
Second best are the lasting friendships I've developed with other doctors and staff. Most people working in healthcare are exceptionally caring and reliable. They will go the extra mile and that quality carries over to personal friendships.
I have learned a tremendous amount from my patients. It's humbling to see how they strive to get through some impossible situations with so much courage and grace. Because of them, I think I know about what is important in life and I learned it early on.
I've never had a patient tell me that they wished they had worked harder; not ever. But I've had countless patients remark that they wished they had spent much more time with family and had more vacations. It's always very sad to hear about regrets because nobody has as much time as they think.
So I took it to heart during my career. Even though I've worked a lot of long hours, including weekends and some nights, I was determined to make time for other things. I made virtually every important family event and I don't feel that I've missed vacations. I don't have too many regrets on that front and I thank my patients for teaching me that very important lesson.
On to the dislike.
In America, medicine has changed a lot over the past 15 years. Everything has become much more regulated and there is today way too much time spent doing things that are not taking care of patients. The administrative load is incredible. It's impossible to keep up with the regulations that get added on year after year. Doctors now have to join big groups to have that necessary regulatory and administrative help.
The very worst aspect of the regulatory changes has been the push to electronic medical records and electronic ordering. It was premature because there was no testing of effectiveness before implementation and the systems stink. They're not reliable and one system doesn't communicate with another. The electronic records has literally added another 90-120 minutes to every day and decreased the face time with patients and family members by half. That is 90-120 minutes taken away from seeing and caring for patients, spending time at home or with friends, exercising and/or hobbies, etc.
Today I'm spending more time looking at the computer screen than looking at my patient's face. That really pains me.
The aggravating thing is that electronic records in it's current iteration, doesn't make healthcare safer, less expensive, or more satisfying for the patient. (That's a different Quora answer).
To that important question about advising kids.
I didn't encourage my kid to go into medicine. Going into medicine today in America is too expensive. In addition to college and medical school loans, it also often takes 1-2 gap years to buff the resume. The post MD training is interminable. Residency and fellowship training that used to add 6 years after graduation are now adding 8 and even 10 years. That is too many years with long hours and low pay to start a career in the mid to late 30s.
90% of the doctors that I know don't encourage their kids to go into medicine even if they like what they are doing. American medicine today has to be more of a calling than a job because the commitment in time and money to get out of training and into work is crazy.
If medicine is what they want to do, then like every parent, I'd support it. But encourage it? No. Smart industrious hard working kids have too many other choices.