By Justin Groode, MD

When I was a premed student I worked ridiculously hard and had very little downtime for R&R. When I had downtime I usually opted to study more. I was terrified of not getting accepted to med school. I was so invested in the concept of being a doctor that I couldn’t imagine life not being one. I am reaching out to my premedical little brothers and sisters in order to talk some sense into you and give you a broader perspective.

Read More : How to Manage your time as a Pre-Med

While my premed behavior was a recipe for achievement, in terms of academic success and admittance to medical school, real success is not really about accomplishment. Real success is about fulfillment and purpose. All work and no play is a terrible precedent to set in any stage of life. Certainly you will be expected to work harder while you are building your career, but even in the career-building stage you have the power to remain balanced. It takes effort and discipline to break out of the bubble of your intense focus on achievement, but in doing so you will nurture your humanity and dramatically improve your odds of a happy and healthy life.

The field of medicine has moved further from the days of real connection with patients and more towards achievement and efficiency. In part, this is the result of managed care and liability factors, but it is also due to doctors’ need to impress and an intense focus on professional accomplishment. I believe this is underlying cause of the epidemic of physician burnout. It isn’t the burden of long hours and paperwork as much as it is the loss of connection with patients, and more importantly the loss of connection and nurturing of self.

Read More: Balance in Medical School

I can’t stress more the importance of getting in control of your behavior now and being clear about the impacts of your life choices, starting today. You can believe me when I tell you that placing your pursuit of a career in medicine above your humanity will lead to a painful experience of physician burnout, or worse, uncontrollable impulses toward self-destructive behavior such as addiction, disruptive behaviors, depraved ethical boundaries, and the likes. It isn’t pretty and is increasingly prevalent in our noble profession. Please heed this warning as an opportunity to get it right from the beginning, or perhaps find a profession that is easier to find a healthy life balance. It is entirely respectable to choose differently for yourself. Case in point, my high achieving UC Berkeley grad cousin chose a career as a nurse practitioner because she had enough insight into the profession to know that it wasn’t a good fit for her (nor was the debt). She is extremely happy in her career, where she works autonomously in her field of specialty.

Think long and hard about this and then do what is right for you as a unique individual. Be a leader of your own life and take charge today!

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