People often ask if my kids are pursuing a career in medicine. As it turns out, neither of my sons is going into anything even remotely related. They’ve never really had the inclination, and I’m certainly not the type to push them into anything. But when someone learns that my boys aren’t following in my footsteps, the follow up statement is often something along the lines of “I hear a lot of doctors are pretty unhappy with how things are going, and say they wouldn’t do it again. I guess it’s not surprising you would discourage your children from being a physician.”
That’s when I get defensive. I actually love what I do! If anyone has an interest in medicine, I would absolutely encourage them to pursue it. After a number of these conversations, I started to wonder if I was crazy. But now there is data to suggest I’m not alone. A recent survey, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, shows that physicians rank highest or all occupations in terms of overall well-being. (It’s like we’re the Denmark of occupations.) The findings are based on over 170,000 interviews in 2012 with working Americans. Physicians had the highest overall well-being index (78.0 on a scale of 100), followed by teachers at 73.5. The survey includes 55 items measuring respondents’ physical, emotional, and fiscal well being. Physicians scored highest (95%) in their belief that they “use their strengths to do what they do best every day” (followed by nurses at 92.7%), and near the top in being treated by their supervisors as a partner. Physicians also scored at or near the top in measures of physical health, such as exercise, healthy food consumption, obesity.
This is not to deny that physicians are under a great deal of stress as we move through as rapidly changing healthcare environment. Moreover, dissatisfaction appears to be particularly high in certain specialties, where changes in work patterns and reimbursement may be leading to lower pay and more difficult working conditions. But overall, the evidence is that for the large majority of us, we still find that being a physician remains a rewarding way to fulfill our goals of making a difference in people’s lives.
I’m not disappointed that my kids are following different paths – I’m thrilled they have passions and they are pursuing them. But I’m certainly not sorry with the path I’ve chosen, and I’d gladly do it again.