I Can’t Do It Anymore: 3 Reasons Doctors Hate Their Job

For the non-medical professional hearing a doctor say, “I hate being a doctor” would be like Michael Jordan back in the day saying, “I hate being a NBA player.”

It doesn’t make sense, right?

Unfortunately it’s hard to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes until we walk in them too.

I searched the web to find out what other doctors thought about their career choice.

There’s a lot of opinions floating around, especially on Quora.

Here’s one point of view from a recently trained surgeon:

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Here’s what one doctor had to say on Sermo, the online community of more than 270,000 physicians:

I wouldn’t do it again, and it has nothing to do with the money. I get too little respect from patients, physician colleagues, and administrators, despite good clinical judgment, hard work, and compassion for my patients. Working up patients in the ER these days involves shotguning multiple unnecessary tests (everybody gets a CT!) despite the fact that we know they don’t need them, and being aware of the wastefulness of it all really sucks the love out of what you do. I feel like a pawn in a moneymaking game for hospital administrators. There are so many other ways I could have made my living and been more fulfilled. The sad part is we chose medicine because we thought it was worthwhile and noble, but from what I have seen in my short career, it is a charade.”

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Here’s another from Reddit:

I have been practicing actively for 10 years. I hate this job and the whole medical world. I never felt as though I belonged. Most of the “successful” doctors in the community are arrogant BS artists who viciously attack other doctors to make themselves look better to administrators.

To be considered good at your job in this world, you have to work 80 hours a week, take care of inpatients, outpatients, be on call, put up with phone calls and visits to your home. I am done. I have had it up to here, and I am done.

  • I don’t have any clue what to do after this.
  • I have no training for anything else.
  • I’m not qualified to be anything else.

I have been criticized (unfairly) so heavily by other doctors in the community that I know I mentally and physically cannot do this job. I am good at certain aspects of my job, and I enjoy procedures (working with my hands, minor office surgery, etc). I hate people. They all LOVE me because I can listen (basically I have nothing to say to them, and have very little skill at manipulating a social interaction – which is required in my profession).

I am expected to spend the time listening, then relive it all when documenting the visit. My documentation takes twice as long as anyone else. I have anxiety about documenting every detail to prove that what I have done is appropriate.

I dread telling anyone, especially my fiancé and my family. They are constantly saying how they are proud of me for my accomplishments (for what that’s worth), and I dread losing value in their eyes. I have approached the subject of changing professions with friends and family, and I get encouragement (“you are just having a bad day”) and disappointed looks and statements. They say “we will love you no matter what you do, but you should be strong and keep on trying.”

I have no pride in myself other than their acceptance and pride in my career. If they knew the things I was thinking about doing, they would be shocked, disappointed, and disgusted.

I am clueless and stuck.

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I hope and pray that someone, no matter their profession, seek help immediately if they’re having thoughts like this.

Now there were several posts that disliked being a doctor but others that loved it. With any job or career choice there’s going to be the good and the bad.

That’s life.

As a periodontist, I went through four years of undergrad, four years of dental school, one year of hospital training at the Biloxi, MS VA Hospital and 3 years of a surgical residency at LSU. Geaux Tigers!

I acquired close to $300K in student loan debt during the process. The problem we ran into was my job offer fell through only two weeks before I completed training and I had no clue how to start a practice (they forget to teach us that even thought it’s the MOST important).

For me personally, there was no way I could even consider to give up my career due to the MONEY owed.

Doctor Burnout Is On The Rise

Unfortunately, too many doctors are burning out early in their careers.

In a survey of 12,000 physicians, only 6% described their morale as positive.

A 2019 Medscape Physician Burnout and Depression survey showed that 45% of physicians are burned out with three specialties (urology, neurology, and physical medicine and rehabilitation) having burnout rates that exceed 50%.

Their top three contributors were:

  1. Too many “bureaucratic tasks” (records, charting, paperwork, etc)
  2. Overworked contributing to a poor work-life balance
  3. Electronic Medical Records

Many are citing that despite the thousands and thousands of hours spent training, it’s the lack of autonomy that’s causing this undue stress.

Doctor Suicide Rate

What’s even worse is the increase in the amount of doctors taking their lives each year.

In the U.S., it’s estimated that 300- 400 doctors commit suicide each year. (I personally know two that have)

Those figures equate to a doctor per day – the highest suicide rate of any profession.

Newer research shows that the number of doctor suicides are 28 to 40 per 100,000 which is more than twice the number than the general population (12.3 per 100,000).

Many attribute this to their “greater knowledge of and easier access to lethal means”.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in the 24–34 age range (Accidents are the first).

In a 2017 study published in Academic Medicine, suicide was the leading cause of death among male resident physicians and the second leading cause of death among all residents.

Look, I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer. I simply want to point out that:

  • burnout is a REAL issue
  • there are several top reasons doctors hate their careers
  • you don’t have to continue saying “I hate being a doctor” to yourself (It’s a BIG world out there!)

Let’s get into the top reasons doctors wish they’d not gotten into medicine/dentistry.

Top 3 Reasons Doctors Hate Their Job

The top 3 reasons why doctors think, “I hate being a doctor” are:

#1 Debt

I completed training two months before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans (where we were living) in 2005. As previously stated, I had close to $300K in student loan debt. We also purchased a home (interest-only because we were broke) then I lost my job offer. Not fun.

I realize that tuition has been climbing each year with no end in sight.

It’s not uncommon to pay between $40,000 to $70,000+ a year.

If a student decides during their third year that they hate medicine or dentistry, they’d already be more than $80,000 to $140,000+ in debt not even factoring in living costs and undergraduate student loan debt.

Now I understand that if this person completes training, then typically they can deal with their debt.

But the question remains: Who can leave medicine/dentistry?

Few of us are raised with a silver spoon in our mouths and our parents aren’t in the position to help us dig out of the debt hole.

If we decide to quit during school and go into a different field, as a failed medical/dental student, how would you ever make enough money to pay off the debt already acquired?

Leaving school early is a recipe for lifelong financial insecurity.

#2 Income

Unfortunately, doctor’s salaries haven’t kept pace with their expectations.

A general practitioner back in 1970 was making $185,000 a year (average inflation adjusted) vs making only $161,000 a year in 2015.

Don’t forget to add in the fact that doctors are having to see double the number of patients now than they did in the 70’s.

We’re now starting to see an increase in the number of physicians moving to a “Concierge” model as most patients are paying more for their care but less of that money is going to the providers.

How about this:

According to a 2002 article in the journal Academic Medicine, the return on educational investment for primary-care physicians, adjusted for differences in number of hours worked, is just under $6 per hour, as compared with $11 for lawyers.

#3 Rise of Bureaucracy

I remember my time spent as a resident at a VA hospital when the changes were made to go from paper to electronic records.

For a semi-literate computer person, it didn’t affect me as much as it did those older docs that had been writing notes in charts for years.

This small change began the BIG wave of those guys calling it quits, not wanting to continue spending countless hours of clinic time spent documenting care rather than providing it.

To them it wasn’t worth it. Could you blame them?

Studies estimate that doctors spend almost an hour on average each day, and $83,000 a year dealing with the paperwork for insurance companies.

Their office staffs spend more than seven hours a day.

Is it any reason why so many physicians view themselves as pawns in a battle between insurers and the government?

The problem is the patients are the ones suffering as it’s the government or private insurance bureaucrats treating them without a medical license.
 
Instead of the doctor expressing their patient’s diagnosis with words such as heart failure or asthma, they must use a letter-number diagnosis found in the International Classification of Disease (ICD-10) code book if they want to get paid.
 
This book turns over 1,400 ailments into more than 68,000 codes. Reminds me a bit of our tax code!
 
My favorite is the code Z63.1 (problem with the in-laws)!
 
So instead of a patient expecting their doctor to recommend the correct treatment, in reality, they’ll receive the recommendation that their insurance carrier allows.
 
There are multiple other reasons why doctors sometimes think, “I hate being a doctor.”
 
But enough with the negativity. Let’s get into what we can do if we’ve ever had thoughts about disliking our career.

Financial Freedom for Doctors

When someone dislikes their career choice but feels stuck, then it’s a recipe for disaster.

If I can show only one doctor thinking, “I hate being a doctor” that there are other options, then I’d find success in helping just that one person.

One such option is financial independence.

Financial independence (FI) provides freedom for doctors which can help prevent the dreaded burnout syndrome.

Why?

Because if it gets to the point where you can’t take it anymore then you can simply walk away. (I wish I could have had this conversation with my childhood physician friend that took his life four years ago.)

A financially independent doctor has a choice. 

They can:

  • continue working full-time
  • cut back to part-time
  • change careers
  • fully retire

To me, that’s true autonomy.

Take Home

In life, we can find success if we learn where to find it.

If you’ve ever thought, “I hate being a doctor” then the time to start is NOW.

Your best course of action is towards financial independence which just might save you.

Even though you may lack autonomy at work it doesn’t mean you can’t find it with your personal finances.

Control what’s in your control.

Passive Investors Circle

It’s for this reason that I started the Passive Investors Circle.

This is where you have personal access to what I’m investing in to provide FI for our family.

You’ll also be able to connect directly with me should you have any questions about how we’re investing for our future.

Join the Passive Investors Circle
jeff@debtfreedr.com
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