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Finding Meaning in Clinical Medicine

My GF asked me the other day how it is that we both went through burnout around the same time but somehow it seems as though I’ve found meaning in clinical medicine.

My assumptions are that the science of medicine is weak but the human connection and 1:1 interactions are incredibly meaningful to some individuals.

Not all patients are created alike. I can be a difficult patient for some doctors but get along very well with others. I’m not the problem, nor is it my physician; any relationship takes 2 willing parties who stand to gain from the interaction.

1. Medicine is a Business

The statement that medicine is a business isn’t a negative sentiment and hardly any patient would argue against it.

As a business, the mainstream medical system is based on coming up with diagnoses that can be treated with costly interventions. Regulators try to control industry greed by coming up with algorithms to protect the consumer.

All of this is the heartbeat of clinical medicine but I don’t have to be part of it unless I want the $300k a year income.

I can create something of my own that is unique and involves me and a willing healthcare consumer. This person appreciates me for what I can offer them and the topic is of enough interest to me that I look forward to learning more about it.

2. Burnout Sucks

Once you experience burnout it’s hard to get back to normal because it took nearly a decade to get to that burnout feeling. You can hardly recall what it’s like to be in awe of your profession and enjoy it.

Burnout is not permanent and it’s a stage many physicians have to wade through to pop up on the other side engaged, excited, and satisfied.

3. Patients Sue Doctors

Yes, patients do sue doctors. But getting sued by a patient is not the end of the world. Losing your medical license isn’t the end of the world.

The fear of getting sued is far more dangerous than the consequence or process of getting sued. If I’m to live the rest of my life in fear of something then I might as well learn to prepare for it.

4. I Could Get Into Trouble

Practicing medicine outside of the boundaries of mainstream medicine is scary for many doctors because we are kept on short leashes.

If we do something that’s not mainstream we fear retribution and imagine huge consequences even if it leads to meaningful clinical work.

Fearing the unknown is natural. But the unknown is only unknown to you; it’s quite well-known to the attorney whom you can pay to educate you.

5. I Don’t Know It All

Even if I don’t know how to find meaning in clinical medicine it doesn’t mean that my options are limited. Exposure matters a lot.

Reading books written by passionate physicians, listening to podcasts, and watching YT videos by doctors who love what they do is inspirational.

The more exposure I have the more options I’ll have. And the world is a friendly place that will eventually show me what I’m looking for.

6. Mainstream Medicine Isn’t Medicine

I get to define for myself what medicine is; what a healthy clinical encounter would look like with a patient and who my ideal patient should be.

Mainstream medicine just happens to be the easiest way to earn a steady income – and it’s a business, not clinical medicine. As such, the lowest barriers to entry often aren’t the most desirable.

Medicine is a profession, but healthcare is a business.

Healthcare Success

Thousands of physicians are practicing the kind of clinical medicine they are passionate about. Flying under the radar, these mavericks are doing what they believe in and reiterating and reinventing as they go along.

7. Finding Something Small

After burning out and my medical license suspension and a whole lot of other headaches I found a small low-income clinic to work in a few hours a week.

This small thing made me at least realize that I could find meaningful clinical work eventually even if that clinic wasn’t it. It was a glimpse.

Now, a local urgent care where I work less than 15 hours a week has been the source of my meaningful clinical work.

8. Asking for Help

As a single person, I know little. But I have a great social network and collectively we know a lot. If I can muster the vulnerability to share my dilemmas with them the advice and insight that follows offers a lot of insight.

Reaching out to interesting healthcare companies for consulting work or medical adviser work has also been a way for me to find meaning in clinical medicine.

9. Lowering Expectations

I find meaning in going for a walk, reading books, exercising, cooking, and socializing. But previously most of my sense of purpose stemmed from clinical work.

In the end, work is an endeavor in which we trade our unstructured time to offer services to someone else in a condensed and structured frame of time; it’s limiting, to say the least.

I expect that my work will not make me suffer but I can’t create a story in my head of suffering that’s not real. I expect that my work hours are tolerable. My work has to be meaningful but it should not satisfy all of my needs.

10. Effort is Required

Few things in life have brought me high pleasure without effort on my part. Therefore, my efforts are a requirement in order to discover meaning in medicine.

Sitting back and hoping that it will come to me is too passive of a stance and, at least for me, it never worked out. Exposure, trial & error, discovery, research, reading, and journaling; that’s the input that’s effective.

11. My Purpose in Medicine

My purpose in clinical medicine is to help someone else ease their suffering and help them overcome their personal hurdles and obstacles.

What’s yours?

The purpose of a doctor in the health insurance model is to be the gatekeeper of resources. But in my private practice, it’s being the patient ally as they navigate their health.

12. There’s no Competition

Just because another doctor or medical group is doing something that I want to do doesn’t mean that the idea is shot.

With 400 million Americans and another several billion on the planet, my funnel is deep and wide; any limitations on my part are imagined.

All I can do is build what I believe to be good clinical medicine, purposeful medicine, and guide the right patients to my practice.

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