It Starts With Us
Most parents would get stars in their eyes if their 8-year-old told them he wants to be a doctor when he grows up.
Most parents would get stars in their eyes if their 8-year-old told them he wants to be a doctor when he grows up. Even though the Hippocratic Oath has been around for 2,500 years, being a physician is still seen as a noble profession.
After all, doctors are scholars, leaders and healers. What’s not to love?
But when my son first turned to me and said he wants to be like mommy, I felt a knot in my stomach. The image that came to mind wasn’t a white coat and stethoscope, it was medicine chewing up and spitting out my kind, loving child. I’d gone through all of it, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, much less my oldest kid.
So I did what any good millennial mom would do. Instead of saying no, nuh huh, you aren’t gonna do that, I squeaked out a “Oh yeah, are you sure?”
I’m not in the business of telling my kids they can’t be whatever they want, especially because I was still figuring out my career well into my adulthood. And they’ve got my genes, so telling them a flat out no is just an invitation for them to prove me wrong.
Before you call me dramatic, I know that kids change their minds all the time. My son still has a lot of growing up to do and no one is going to hold him to this path (thank goodness).
But just in case he, or any of my three kids, decide to pursue medicine, I have got to ask the medical community a favor.
Let’s be better.
Let’s make healthcare an awesome place to work.
Let’s stop accepting crappy workloads and doctor guilt.
Let’s help our colleagues grow.
Let’s start taking care of ourselves the way we take care of everyone else.
When I started off on my journey out of burnout, it was mostly about me. I needed to get out or else I wasn’t going to survive.
Then it became about the people around me. Colleagues, residents, other professionals that were struggling the same way I did. I still want to pull people up and out of dead ends. Community is everything.
But now I’m realizing it’s about something even bigger. It’s about imagining a future where physician wellness is so prioritized that doctors aren’t burning out at astoundingly high rates. It’s about creating a culture that allows doctors to thrive from the moment they start med school. It’s about getting in touch with everything that made us want to be physicians in the first place and making sure that when our kids say they want to be doctors, we can turn around and proudly tell them, “That’s great, me too.”