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Understanding the Medical Career Choice!

Regrets and Recriminations – or Joy and Bliss?

By Eugene Schmuckler PhD, MBA


By Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA


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Jimmy’s mother called out to him at seven in the morning, “Jimmy, get up. It’s time for school.” There was no answer. She called again, this time more loudly, “Jimmy, get up! It’s time for school!” Once more there was no more answer. Exasperated, she went to his room and shook him saying, “Jimmy, it’s time to get ready for school.”

He answered, “Mother, I’m not going to school. There are fifteen hundred kids at that school and every one of them hates me. I’m not going to school.”

“Get to school!” she replied sharply.

“But, Mother, all the teachers hate me, too. I saw three of them talking the other day and one of them was pointing his finger at me. I know they all hate me so I’m not going to school,” Jimmy answered.

“Get to school!” his mother demanded again.

“But mother, I don’t understand it. Why would you want to put me through all of that torture and suffering?” he protested.

“Jimmy, for two good reasons,” she fired back. “First, you’re forty-two years old. Secondly, you’re the principal.”

Similar Physician Sentiments

Many of us have had conversations with medical colleagues at which time sentiments of those expressed by Jimmy have been voiced. The career choice that was made many years ago is now, for some reason, no longer as exciting, interesting and enjoyable, as it was when we first began in the field. The career that was undertaken with great anticipation is now something to dread.

The reason for this is occurrence is not that difficult to understand. Two of the most important decisions individuals are asked to make are ones for which the least amount of training is offered: choice of spouse and choice of career. How many college students receive a degree in the field they identified when they first enrolled at the college or university? In fact, how many entering freshmen list their choice of major as undecided? It is only during the sophomore year when a major must be declared is the choice actually made. So, career choices made at the age of 19 might be due to having taken a course that was interesting or easy, appeared to have many entry level jobs, did not require additional educational or professional training requirements, or was a form of the “family business.” Now as an adult, the individual is functioning in a career field that was selected for him or her by an eighteen-year-old.

Judging Career Success

How do we judge career success? A career represents more than just the job or sequence of jobs we hold in a lifetime. The typical standard for a successful career is by judging how high the individual goes in the organization, how much money is earned, or one’s standing attained in the medical profession.

Yet, career success actually needs to be judged on several dimensions. Career adaptability refers to the willingness and capacity to change occupations and/or the work setting to maintain a standard of career progress.  Many of you did not anticipate the managed care, Health 2.0, or political changes in your chosen medical profession, or specialty, when you began your training.

A second factor is career attitudes. These are your own attitudes about the work itself, our place of work, your level of achievement, and the relationship between work and other parts of your life.

Medical Career Identity

Career identity is that part of your life related to occupational and organizational activities. This is the unique way in which we believe that we fit into the world. Our career is only one part of our being. We play many roles in life each of which combine to make up or totality. At any point in time one role may be more important than another [life saving physicians versus retail sales clerk]. The importance of the roles will generally change over time. Thus at some point you may choose to identify more with your career, and at other times, with your family.


Career Performance

A final factor is career performance, a function of both the level of objective career success and the level of psychological success.  How much you earn and your reputation factor into, and reflect, objective career success. To be recognized as a “leader” in a medical field and asked to submit chapters for inclusion in text-books, medical journals or new-wave blogs such as this may be a more important indicator of career success than money.

Psychological success is the second measure of career performance. It is achieved when your self-esteem, the value you place on yourself, increases. As you can see, there is a direct relationship between psychological success and objective success. It may increase as you advance in pay and status at work or decrease with job disappointment and failure. Self-esteem may also increase as one begins to sense personal worth in other ways such as family involvement or developing confidence and competence in a particular field, such as consistently shooting par on the golf course. At that point, objective career success may be secondary in your life. This is why many people choose to become active in their church or in politics. Even though one may have slowed down on the job, or in their professional career they can be extremely content with their life.

Case Model Scenario

Consider the following situation.

You are traveling on business. Although you are on a direct flight, you have a one-hour layover before the second leg of the flight and your final destination. Leaving the plane, after having placed the “occupied” card on your seat you walk down the concourse. On the way, you encounter a friend that you knew in high school. The two of you sit to have a cup of coffee and then you realize that your departure time is rapidly approaching. In fact, you will be cutting it quite close. Running down the concourse you return to the gate only to find that the door has been closed, the jetway is being retracted and the plane is being backed away from the gate. You stare out the window watching the plane go to the end of the runway and then begin its takeoff. Something goes horrible wrong and the plane crashes on takeoff, bursting into flames. It is apparent that there will be no survivors.

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To the world you are on that plane (remember the occupied card). Traveling on business your generous insurance policy will be activated. In anticipation of being in a location where they may not have ATM machines you have a good deal of cash, sufficient for at least a month.


Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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3 Responses

  1. Thoughts on Medical Careers and Healthcare Executive Leadership

    The healthcare organizational changes necessary for good operational performance rarely occur without some initiative on the part of upper management. If you want good financial performance, you need to assert the leadership necessary to design and implement needed changes in operations management.

    But, a medical career and healthcare leadership today is not something that is done to people; it is something you do with them. Today’s successful hospital, nurse or physician executive must act more like a leader and mentor, and less like an administrator or manager. They must create trust and collaboration to empower their professional staff, volunteers, and employees.

    For some healthcare executives, this requires a fundamental shift in mindset. This new mentoring paradigm demands a holistic approach for the total healthcare organization so that the enterprise-wide environment assists everyone to realize their full potential. This maximization of performance is more than just a trendy business concept for leadership. And, it is more than merely putting on a business suit and expecting results. It is a commitment to being a transparent informed leader.

    One of the elements in this shift in mindset involves information communication. All relationships involve communication as an element of education, and healthcare leadership is no exception. In fact, what is really enabling is the dissemination of information to all stakeholders and peers. In essence, the physician leader takes on a more communicative role and thus empowers employees to their full potential.

    To successfully achieve this, the hospital, nurse or physician executive must have a clear understanding of self and consider human values relative to the role of the health organization measurements and mission. This attention assists the executive to lead with self-confidence and to encourage differing opinions, rather than the opposite.

    Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA


  2. The $1 Million Mistake: Becoming a Doctor?

    According to a new survey by personal finance site NerdWallet, most doctors are dissatisfied with the job, and less than half would choose a career in medicine if they were able to do it all over again.


    Most doctors enter the field thinking they’ll be able to spend most of their time healing the sick.


    Yet, the paperwork burden on doctors has become crushing, and could become even more complicated under the Affordable Care Act.

    Any thoughts, colleagues?

    Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA


  3. 12 Best Jobs in Healthcare 2013

    Profession Annual Media Salary Projected Growth

    Biomedical Engineer $86,960 62%
    Dental Hygienist $70,210 38%
    Occupational Therapist $75,400 33%
    Optometrist $97,820 33%
    Physical Therapist $79,860 39%
    Chiropractor $66,160 28%
    Speech Pathologist $69,870 23%
    Pharmacist $116,670 25%
    Podiatrist $116,440 20%
    Respiratory Therapist $55,870 28%
    Medical Records Technician $34,610 21%
    Physician Assistant $90,930 30%

    A favorite topic of mine.
    Source: Career Cast

    Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA


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