10 Things More Productive Than Whining About Job Satisfaction (and the doctors who did them)

Thanks to a momentary lapse in judgement, Dr Jim Dahle let me guest post on White Coat Investor.  As a long-term Boglehead, money nerd and WCI fan this is a dream come true.  If you didn’t read Stop Whining About Job Satisfaction yet, I suggest you go check it out.

Many of you probably read the WCI post and came here to light me up for telling fellow physicians to quit whining.  That’s OK.  I’m sure yelling at a stranger on the internet will make you feel better.  Before you pull the trigger, just hear me out.

Everyone deserves a career that is both financially and personally rewarding.  Unfortunately, burnout is all too common in the medical profession.  The worst part of burnout isn’t even the stress – it’s the feeling of hopelessness.  If you feel like there is no way out of your current situation, I’ve got some good news.  There are plenty of physician role models in the trenches who have found a way to boost their career satisfaction.

We needed someone to walk us through our first lumbar puncture, our first suture and our first delivery.  Why not let some of these physician role models teach you how to rekindle your love of medicine?  Here are 10 things more productive than whining about job satisfaction and the physicians who did them.

healthy clinic doctor health
See one.  Do one.  Teach one.

Work Less

It’s amazing how much more enjoyable being a doctor is when you simply do it less.

You may recall when White Coat Investor was able to go part time (although running a multimedia company on your days off may not count as going part-time to most people).

Perhaps the most convincing advocate for cutting back is Crispy Doc.  His ongoing series Docs Who Cut Back is a pretty convincing argument for working less (even for workaholics like me).

Cut Out Nights

I have a love/hate relationship with night shift. There’s a “we’re going to survive this together” camaraderie on night shift that you just don’t find during the day.  >90% of my best rectal foreign body stories have occurred between 9 PM and 7 AM. On the other hand, I haven’t had a consistent sleep schedule since 2008.  I wouldn’t recognize a circadian rhythm if it slapped me in the face.

alone bed bedroom blur
What is this sleep you speak of?

Some docs work for groups that allow partners to opt out of night shifts.  Xrayvsn was able to find a unicorn radiology job where he never works nights or weekends.  White Coat Investor was able to cut out nights entirely when we went part-time.

Not every group is so understanding.  Some docs have taken matters into their own hands.  Crispy Doc has a great guide to Group Policy Change you should check out if your group needs to be sold on the idea of more flexible scheduling.

Cut Out Stress

Night shift isn’t the only thing you can cut out of your career to improve job satisfaction.

Hatton1 of Doctor of Finance MD and Invoke MD both discovered that cutting out OB from their OB/Gyn practice gave them a much more sustainable practice.

Wealthy Doc discovered that cutting out administrative duties boosted his job satisfaction.

I’m a big fan of Physician Philosopher‘s Hell Yes Policy.  If a new work opportunity doesn’t make him say “hell yes”, he passes it up.  Equally important is the “F*$% No Corollary”.

Actually Use Your Vacation Time

Physicians squander a lot of their vacation time.  Whether it be concern over lost revenue or just the guilt of leaving their patients, many doctors only use a fraction of the vacation time their contract allows.

Just like time away from your children can make you a more patient and loving parent, time away from your patients can make you a kinder, more effective doctor.

scenic view of sea against sky during sunset
The doctor isn’t in.

People like Dads, Dollars, Debts have discovered the joy of slow travel.

Traveling doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.  B.C. Krygowski can teach you all about the art of home exchange.  Don’t like the idea of opening your home to strangers?  Dr. McFrugal can teach you how to travel hack and use credit card points to travel the globe on the cheap.

No matter how or where you travel, getting away from work is key to liking it more.

Change Jobs

Maybe it’s not medicine you need to escape as much as it’s your current work environment.

Millennial Doc can tell you all about toxic work environments.  This spring she’s making the leap from primary care to hospitalists medicine.  Although she’ll have to let go of some self-imposed guilt, I think the transition will be great for her overall happiness.

Kpeds from Pediatrician Finds FI is going from academic to community medicine so he can have a career that better fits his family’s needs and get’s him closer to his goal of financial independence.  Will leaving the ivory tower be scary at first?  Of course.  That doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it. Just ask Vagabond MD- he told his ivory tower I loved you, but had to stay away.

Dr Carrie Reynolds of Hippocratic Hustle took a huge leap of faith when she left her full time job to pursue travel locums.  Now she is able to make more money in less time,  plow through student loans and have more time to pursue her passions.  Not too shabby, eh?

Side Hustle

Variety is the spice of life. Replacing clinical time with non-clinical side gigs makes me appreciate my day job more. Whether it be doing chart reviews from my couch or relaxing at a cardiac rehab, I’ve found ways to make easy doctor money with lower risk and stress than working in an ER.

I’m not the only one who appreciates a good side gig.  Millionaire Doc has dabbled in teleradiology.  Doc G of DiverseFI has worked every flavor of side hustle, including the lucrative business of nursing home medical directorship.  Dr. Cory Fawcett is sharing his experience and expertise by helping fellow physicians as a financial makeover coach.

Public Speaking

Most doctors are used to speaking to strangers about their area of expertise. Some physicians make the natural transition to public speaking.

White Coat Investor travels the country speaking on financial literacy.  His highly anticipated WCI Conference in 2020 is going to be a money-nerd Woodstock.

Dr. Nisha Mehta (founder of Physician Side Gigs) now does public speaking gigs on achieving better work/life balance.  Dr. Kevin Pho (founder of KevinMD) does keynote talks on medicine and social media.

Rogue Dad MD has the occasional public speaking gig, and has a huge daily impact speaking directly to his massive Twitter following.

Doc G of DiverseFI is getting into the public speaking game with engagements at Camp FI and a speakers’ bureau.

Start a Business

Maybe your daily rut has you dreaming about becoming an entrepreneur. You’re in great company.

Passive Income MD founded Curbside Real Estate to help physicians looking to buy a home.

Dr. Cory Fawcett built a real estate empire that allowed him to retire from clinical medicine.

Physician Philosopher just published his first book Physician Philosopher’s Guide to Personal Finance, which I suspect will funnel many business opportunities his way.

Not sure where to start? Subscribe to the Hippocratic Hustle podcast and you’ll meet a new physician entrepreneur every episode.

Work Overseas

Perhaps moving across town isn’t a big enough change of venue to respark your passion. Maybe you need to take a bigger leap and work overseas.

You could always follow Urgent Care Career‘s footsteps and move to a different country. He earns doctor money remotely doing medical consulting and telemedicine from a low cost country.

Not ready for a full time commitment but want a taste of working abroad? You could always join Physician on FIRE on his next medical mission trip.

Quit!

When all else fails and you still can’t eke out some happiness, there’s always the nuclear option – quit!

Physician on FIRE reached fat FIRE and plans to retire at age 43.

Between retirement savings and a real estate empire, Dr Cory Fawcett retired from medicine and discovered he didn’t miss it.

Of course, it’s hard to quit when you’re $400,000 in debt and have young kids to feed. If you take White Coat Investor’s advice to live like a resident, treat debt like an emergency and avoid stupid doctor tricks you will be well on your way to morbidly obese FIRE.

I am forever grateful that Dr. Dahle started his blog in 2011 right as I was becoming a new attending. His advice couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m living proof that following his advice early on will put you on the fast track to financial independence.

Less Whining, More Doing

Your medical career is like winning a jackpot.  If you are encased in the doctor bubble you may not be able to appreciate the fact that you are well paid, well respected and have more autonomy than most other jobs.  If you surround yourself with non-medical friends you quickly realize that even the best job is still…..a job.  There’s a reason people need to get paid in order to show up.

Most doctors will experience burnout or disillusionment at some point during their career.  So will most non-doctors who have to work for a living.  You could sit around the doctors’ lounge whining to anyone who will listen to you.  I suggest that your time would be better spent checking out these physician role models and follow their examples.

You don’t have to gut it out being miserable until you retire.  Happiness doesn’t have to be a distant destination.  If you’ve made it to being an attending, you surely have the brains and the drive to get yourself out of your current situation.  I hope these fellow docs inspire you as much as they’ve inspired me.

What do you think?  Have you taken any of these steps to improve your job satisfaction?  Which physician role model has inspired you the most?  Share your thoughts and comments below.

 

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26 thoughts on “10 Things More Productive Than Whining About Job Satisfaction (and the doctors who did them)

  1. Good idea. Less griping and more fixing. My slogan is “If you want something to change, you have to change something.” There are some great examples on your list of doctors to follow. Everyone should be able to find someone to relate to. No excuses for griping.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

    Like

    1. Most docs would be wise to follow your example. Change doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Change isn’t always easy, but neither are most things worth fighting for. Thanks for being a role model for me and countless other physicians.

      Like

  2. Well written…really enjoyed the theme. I would be interested in a link to some of the companies looking for physician reviewers. thanks for the work you do. It is greatly appreciated.

    -WCI Disciple

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    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. There are a lot of things within our control that can boost job satisfaction.

      If you’re interested in chart review jobs, the best method is to carpet bomb all of them with your CV. Even ones that aren’t actively recruiting will often respond. Here is a list of all the big Independent Review Organizations: https://www.nairo.org/members/

      Like

  3. Well said, SHS!

    I did not talk or write about burnout until I figured it out for myself and could articulate a roadmap for others suffering from burnout to follow. No one wants to listen to whining docs. People want solutions, not to be the shoulder for others to cry on.

    Like

  4. SHS,

    A friend came from humble origins. His grandfather, a field hand, told him at a young age he could earn his living with his back or with his brain. Friend became a neurosurgeon.

    Sure, we deal with burnout and lots of unpleasant bureaucracy, but I still wouldn’t trade jobs with the vast majority of my patients. It’s still a privilege, and failing that, what other job let’s you work part-time but earn more than the average full-time worker?

    We are mimes trapped in invisible cages of our own construction. High time we create our own exits.

    Love this survey of escape hatches.

    Thrilled for your WCI moment as well, my friend.

    Fondly,

    CD

    Like

    1. We all need occasional reminders what a privilege it is to be a doctor. Privilege doesn’t mean perfect – it just means we should try to practice humility and gratitude.

      You are the perfect example of someone who took matters into their own hands and blazed a trail to career satisfaction. Thanks for paving the way for the rest of us.

      Like

  5. Very true. Whining is not productive at all.

    I’m always impressed with your ability to incorporate so many physician blogs in your posts while at the same time creating content that is high-yield, valuable, creative, and entertaining.

    Thanks for the shout out 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks for being a great mentor for readers like me.

      It takes a village of doc bloggers to raise a physician.

      The toughest part of weaving all those posts together is not being able to incorporate as many bloggers as I would have liked. The physician finance bullpen is deep!

      Like

  6. Congrats on the WCI feature SHS (plus it was a very well written article). Appreciate you using me as an example for how others can tailor their work to a better lifestyle (although those in the shift work specialities like mine have an easier time to do it)

    Like

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. As a fellow WCI fan, you know how exciting an opportunity that is.

      Thanks for sharing your story with fellow physicians and being a good role model for achieving better work/life balance.

      Like

  7. Thanks for sharing! Changing jobs is a huge step and hopefully it really will result in a better work/life balance for us both and that we both like the new jobs as much as the old ones. To trade really good jobs that we worked a little too much in for crappy ones that we work less at may not be the best move. fingers crossed!

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  8. Not a doctor myself, but I’d definitely prefer one that saw fewer patients and was better rested/less burned out. How can you constantly deliver the care the patients need if you’ve used up every last bit of energy (and potentially every last f*ck) you have? So I definitely agree that doctors cut back on their practices — for the good of themselves and the good of their patients.

    Like

    1. I know I am a more patient, empathetic physician when I work less. In a healthcare system already suffering from a physician shortage, I don’t know if everyone suddenly cutting back is sustainable. On the other hand, as a patient I would like someone who wasn’t on hour #87 of the week and couldn’t wait to be done with me.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  9. Thanks for this article and it’s sister on WCI! I’m a mid-career doc who has done more than my share of whining over the years but have (mostly) seen the light and started taking action. It feels a whole lot better. Cutting back and cutting out night shifts have been miraculous for me in terms of well being. Making some financial breathing room in your life so all of the above options are feasible is a game changer.

    Like

  10. I loved your post on WCI. Glad to see some optimism in our generation. It will be a good counterbalance to the doom and gloom we see and hear elsewhere. You have just gained yourself another follower.

    Like

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Medicine may not be perfect, but we are lucky to make good money making a positive impact on people’s lives.

      If we can’t find some satisfaction in this job, what hope is there for the other 99% of American workers?

      Like

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