Are the Physician Careers We Know Becoming Endangered?

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC

Lifelong, fulfilling physicians careers, representing continuity, are a dying breed as today's physicians expect more out of their careers.

As a child, the only physician I ever knew was our crusty opinionated and entirely trustworthy family doctor. His physician career spanned almost five decades, in one unbroken line from his first days as a GP in solo practice until his retirement, which occurred way past the age at which most of us would like to stop working.

His was the typical physician career, representing continuity, professional satisfaction and a lifelong commitment to a largely stable community of patients.

The other physician I know and admire greatly for these same qualities is my husband, a urologist, who still loves what he does and wouldn't trade away any of his doctoring in practice for an alternative.

However, I am going to take a provocative stance and argue that these kinds of physician careers, and the men and women who created them, are a dying breed.

Why do I say this?

Technology has changed the way we work and interact, permitting unprecedented mobility, flexibility and instant access.

Health care organizations, and the healthcare industry in general, are undergoing sea changes that are upsetting the traditional medical practice model and introducing enormous uncertainty.

The younger generations have come to expect more out of their careers — more gratification, more freedom, more flexibility, more time off, more control over their schedules, etc.

They are also less tolerant — of authority, of expectations of self-sacrifice, of work that doesn't give them a sense of purpose and of situations that lack choice and options.

Even those of us who are boomers are looking for alternatives — seeking more professional fulfillment, greater meaning for the years of work that remain, relief from the "grind," less stress or perhaps greater reward for the stress that is innate in being a physician.

How then should you view your physician career?

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