It's Not the Money That Makes You Unhappy

Physician's Money Digest, March 2007, Volume 14, Issue 3

As the hospital was currentlyon a health foodkick, I was enjoying mypureed soybeans andorganic yogurt in thephysicians' lounge when I saw my oldfriend, Bill Lesser, stick his headthrough the doorway and look aroundthe room. He spotted me and made abeeline for the seat next to me. I couldtell immediately that he had a problemhe wanted to get off his chest. Helooked very, very unhappy.

Dr. Lesser:

Hi Lou. Long time no see.

Dr. Constan:

Nice to see you Bill.How are you doing?

At this, he launched right in, as I

knew he would.

Dr. Lesser:

I'm having a crisis, and Ineed your help. The stress of practice isgetting to me, and I'm thinking of leavingmy group and doing somethingelse. I'm not happy.

Dr. Constan:

Whoa, Bill. That's abig step. Start at the beginning, please.

Dr. Lesser:

Well, it seems I'm workingharder and harder just to make thesame salary. I don't think my patientsappreciate me, and I don't find practicingmedicine is a challenge anymore.

Dr. Constan:

Let's take these questionsone at a time. First, you're workingharder and harder to make thesame amount of money. How importantis money to you, and why do youneed to make the same amount ofmoney? Does your family need themoney or are you doing it because youfeel you never ought to take a pay cut?

Dr. Lesser:

Well, I?

Dr. Constan:

Sorry Bill, let me finish.I've got a lot more to say. I know you—money has never been the main motivatorfor you. You and your wife should sitdown with your financial advisor andcrunch some numbers. I suspect you andyour family could live quite comfortablywith less income. You should not changejobs just because of the money.

Your next issue is that your patientsdon't appreciate you. Come on. Youknow you're dealing with today's culturehere. Patients are a lot more demanding.They're taught to be that wayby the media, which caters to theirwhims in an attempt to sell them morematerial goods. It would make sensefor you to educate them about theimportance of your services to them.Do a little self-promotion here. If youtell them you're valuable, they're likelyto believe it. It doesn't cost anything,and it will improve your satisfactionand your patients' attitudes.

Third, you don't find your practicechallenging. You've studied all yourlife to be the best. Now you are. Didyou think that when you'd arrived,when you'd attained an almost magicallevel of skill and knowledge, you'dstill be as challenged as you were whenyou were a scared young medical studentand the whole bewildering field ofmedicine was strung out before you?

Dr. Lesser:

But, I'd just like to behappy in the workplace.

Dr. Constan:

And you can—there'sa million ways to do that, and youought to think about them before youbail. You might lower your expectations,work a little less, deal with lessmoney, and find satisfaction in adoptinga hobby, spending time with yourfamily, or pursuing volunteer work.You might consult a psychologist tohelp you assess who you are and whatyou want. And one more thing, youneed to practice some relaxation techniquessuch as tai chi or yoga to preventyourself from getting so stressedout about this sort of stuff.

Dr. Lesser:

Thanks Lou, I see thatyour advice needs my serious consideration,and I need to apply myself tosolving my unhappiness.

Dr. Constan:

No problem. Now Ican get back to daydreaming about mytrip to Greece. It's currently how I getthrough the day.

Louis L. Constan, a family practice physicianin Saginaw, Mich, is the editor of theSaginaw County Medical Society Bulletinand Michigan Family Practice. He welcomesquestions or comments at 3350 ShattuckRoad, Saginaw, MI 48603, 989-792-1899, or louisconstan@hotmail.com.