'Fear Not, This Is Normal': Advice for Young Doctors

Ryan Syrek, MA


April 14, 2017

Business Savvy Is Key

Many users, such as Dr James Rohde, focused on the need for business acumen. "I started an MBA in healthcare at age 69," he recounted. "I wish I had gone back to school sooner and used the MBA for part of my practice years." Several respondents indicated that a full MBA is not as important as a basic understanding of, and respect for, the financial demands and concerns inherent in the profession.

More than anything, the importance of an overall business education was pointed out as an often-overlooked component of happiness. Dr Curtis Graham went so far as to state:

My one single regret from my residency is that absolutely no one during my medical school training nor in my residency ever took 20 minutes to tell me how critical a business education is to private practice. I found out about that after I lost my practice for financial reasons and retired early. I then discovered not only why I lost my practice, but also why thousands of physicians today are losing their private practices for the same reason: no business education whatsoever.

The contributions also contained specific practice recommendations. Dr Janet Chene reminded others, "Private practice isn't dead, and don't be afraid of it if you are willing to be your best and offer patients a higher level of care and compassion."

Unexpected Advice

Some of the suggestions offered were slightly surprising. For example, Dr Gobar expressed a need to protect fellow physicians. As she advised, "Don't let other physicians or institutions use you to attack another physician; it happens more often than you know within the hospital staff offices. Stand up for yourself, and know your legal rights." Many commenters suggested viewing other doctors or doctors-to-be as a makeshift family, but this particular recommendation stood out in terms of a need for awareness of legal ramifications.

But not all unusual advice was so dire. Take, for example, Dr Nabeel Zafar, who encouraged an end to "delayed gratification." The demands and constraints of this challenging career are well known, but Dr Zafar's suggestion is to avoid surrendering certain aspects of identity that are tended to in free time. He noted, "Instead of saying, 'I'm going to give up such-and-such hobby, socializing, et cetera for the next few years,' learn how to do it all together."

Maybe not truly unexpectedly but quite poignantly, some users focused on specific concerns faced by women. Dr Ruby Kapadia poetically stated, "I wish I knew that as a woman, you will learn the art of mastering motherhood with career and appreciate that the balance is as unique, potent, and satisfying as the balance of sun and the moon around the earth's orbit." The life/work balance factored in often extended beyond gender-specific concerns, but the unique demands of motherhood and acknowledgment of "paternalistic" attitudes emerged as common concerns for young doctors to confront.

The advice covered far more than can be simply summed up here, with suggestions ranging from dietary concerns to general "pep talks" about life inside medicine. The contributions are worth reviewing in total, but the final note included here is one that is hopefully a bit tongue-in-cheek. The pithiest advice may have come from Dr Sandra Stedinger: "Too late now, but you should have gone into engineering."

Here's hoping that this trove of advice helps make this particular sentiment one that's not quite as accurate.


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