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Friday, September 16, 2011

Reply to an Anesthesia Resident

(Recently, Lynette informed me that I had a comment on one of my posts from an anesthesia resident and have no way to get my response back to him, so I am turning it into a post with the hopes that he'll see it and that it may be of benefit.)

I am a junior anesthesia resident and I appreciate your insight in this post. I'm actually at a crossroads in my career. I do enjoy the practice of anesthesia, the pharmacology and procedural aspect of the practice is what attracted me to the specialty in the first place. However, I am at the point of my training where I'm doubting whether this specialty is the best for me and my family. I am recently married and would like to start a family in the near future. However, I have found it difficult balancing time with my wife, spending quiet time with God and serving at my church, at the same time trying to keep up with my readings and clinical duties; with an understanding that life as a staff member will still be filled with call and long hours. That being said, I am considering switching to family medicine to have more control over my professional life and to allow more time for family and God. Being a physician is a privilege and I feel that I would also be happy doing family practice, developing relationships with patients and managing diverse medical conditions. I'm definately at odds with this decision and would appreciate any further insight and advice. Thanks, Jeff

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Jeff,

I haven't written a post in a long time and I don't know if you will return to the blog to read these thoughts, but since there was no email for me to reply to I'll leave my thoughts here. It's been nearly 3 years since I wrote that last post, so hopefully I've been molded a little bit more to conform with who God made me to be.

I commend you on recognizing that the priorities for most in the world are wrong (even among Christians, myself included at times) - you are on the right path. Yes, the practice of medicine is a great privilege... one not to be taken lightly. You have been gifted and granted an opportunity to serve in a unique way. I would tell you that the decision will truly lie not just with you and God, but instead with you, your wife, and God... and through great soul searching and prayer... lots of it. There is great power in prayer and I know I personally don't do enough of it. Medicine has become so specialized and compartmentalized that I certainly don't feel like a complete physician any longer at this stage of my career. You know like how when we were medical students, interns, and young residents... we had so much textbook knowledge in our heads and beginning clinical training only broadened our knowledge? Somewhere through the years, the reverse happens. Your skills hone down specific to anesthesia, and a lot of the broadness of medicine is lost. Now, that is not to say that you won't feel competent. It is just different because then your skill set will be totally different, because you'll be an expert in what you do, that is anesthesiology. I guess that's how I see our profession for myself at this time.

In general, however, a career as an anesthesiologist will be more financially rewarding than one in family practice. I realize that that also is not necessarily a good thing because with wealth comes great responsibility. It is the rare person who can give up / share wealth willingly and be a wise and faithful steward with God's money. I have felt great comfort as a provider that (God willing) my family will be ok financially if I continue in my current path. From another angle though, I see family practice as opening up great opportunities of service/missions for you. You will be a more complete physician, able to open up shop on your own (if you wanted), be a great asset in the missions field locally & internationally. Though you may not be a specialist, you'll be able to meet & treat people in a broad sense as you've already intuited. I sometimes wish that I had that ability to just pick up and go and practice as a family practitioner or internist with much greater freedom than as an anesthesiologist. However, to come this far and be so close to actually living life and enjoying some of the delayed rewards that come with your first real salary, it may be quite a decision to set yourself back a few more years as a struggling resident (especially if you are thinking of having children soon). Remember, your wife has also had to endure these tough growing years of your education as well, and she too will look forward to some of the benefits of the income of a practicing physician. I love that you are hearing and understanding the call to your priorities to God, family, church, role as a provider.

I don't think you truly expected me to be able to solve this for you. I will tell you what I have been up to this past summer. Every month I've been going through Psalms and Proverbs (5 Psalms, 1 Proverb per day) - I plan on doing this until the year is over. I had taken a basic seminary class about a year and a half a go and it indeed changed my life. I learned so many things. This was one exercise that my professor said to try because it will change your life. He said to try it for 3 months - I thought I'd need twice as long since I'm a layperson! I'm on the 4th run through now and I do see that God is changing my heart and mind... slowly, oh so slowly, because I am so thickheaded and obstinate. His word is giving me perspective and in filling my mind with his wisdom perhaps the decisions I make in regards to the future will be his decisions. I hope this helps.

With regards... Tom

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