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Can a doctor live a fulfilling life as a doctor and as a parent?

I am asking this because out of all the doctors I have met throughout my time, they have said that they are extremely busy and barely go home. I am curious on how doctors manage their career and family life. Since I want to have children, this always gets me thinking at times. #medicine #work-life-balance #career-counseling #hospital-and-health-care


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Col Sen’s Answer

Hello Saul,

I am not a medical doctor but the answer is coming from one of friends Dr. Sapna of All India Institute of Medical Science, New Delhi who herself is a practicing medico. She says: why not? If you have an eco system in your family who can manage your kids while you or spouse is/are away due to professional commitments. In India I have seen many doctor couples continue with their profession and they are very successful parents as well. But there are many (wives) leave their job and raise the children and later they join the profession again. So, one has to look into the family strength/system available to support the couple or not.


Not only in medical profession but in all other professions there are many examples of successful working parents. In my personal case, my wife left the initial job of her hospital after 3 yrs of marriage and later she went on to teach. There was no pressure from my/family side but she on her own volition did it. So, it is the decision of the couple whether or NOT /should or should NOT continue working together and still raise the children and make them successful in their lives. But surely you need family support. If you have, go ahead!


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Spruce’s Answer

I am not a doctor, but the same question could be asked of any professional. Sometimes there will be job offers where long hours are expected or even required. Jobs like this might be emergency room surgeon, elected to high public office, partner in a law firm, or CEO of a large corporation. You will have an opportunity to accept or reject such a job. At the other end of the scale, most companies that hire people expect them to work, and my guess is that soon enough you will find out what the minimum amount of work required is to keep that job.

For every job in between, you and your spouse must talk about this and agree on what behaviors are acceptable to both of you. If you can't agree, or if you do agree but don't follow through, then your marriage may not last long enough for you to be parents. Obviously, time changes things, and what was acceptable early on may not be acceptable anymore. If that occurs, you both have to take the time to agree on new acceptable behaviors. Or if the situation is temporary, you may have to use "extraordinary measures" until things settle down again.

Now that I read back over this, it seems roughly stated. I am a 62-year-old male, married with 3 kids, and fall into the last category above where we had to take "extraordinary measures" several times to maintain our work / life balance. I'm trying to be firm but not rough. In my opinion, people sometimes charge off into life with a subconscious expectation that if they get into trouble someone will help them, and then when nobody helps them, they get angry. This is my clumsy attempt to say that in my opinion, your successful work / life balance is up to you. Good luck.

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Richard’s Answer

During medical school and residency, you won’t be in control of your own schedule which makes family time difficult to obtain. However, after training, you can be in more control and can choose what practice to join based on your needs. You can work less and have more time for family at the cost of making less money and possibly consulting on less interesting cases.

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Ann’s Answer

Hi Saul,

You can absolutely be a doctor and have a fulfilling family life. During your residency, life will be chaotic as you rotate through various parts of the hospital, but once you choose your specialization you can decide how busy you are. For example, ER doctors and OB GYNs have it harder because they are often on call. However, if you choose to be a family or internal medicine doctor with your own practice then you have more control of your hours. My cousin Dr. Steve Hand is an orthopedic surgeon and is able to be home at dinner with his family most nights. It all depends on the type of medicine you practice. Good luck!


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