Regret medical school? Here are 3 things you can do.

By | April 6, 2019

This article is sponsored by Careers by

It’s normal to daydream about living a life very different from our own:

  • “What would life be like if I were Beyonce?”
  • “Would I have the same worries if I were a trapeze artist?”
  • “Would I have been happier as a librarian?”

We all do it from time to time — perhaps in moments of boredom, or maybe in times of high stress. But recent studies suggest that burnout in health care professions is increasing and becoming more severe. Some groups are even indicating that a massive physician shortage is imminent unless we find a way to keep doctors from abandoning the field altogether. For a comprehensive look at the causes and potential solutions for physician burnout, check out “A Crisis in Healthcare: A Call to Action on Physician Burnout.”

But as a physician, what can you do in the short term if you feel tired, disengaged, and/or demoralized? What can you do right now to manage your feelings of regret about going to medical school in the first place?

1. Seek mental health support. It’s essential to find a supportive, effective mental health provider who can assist you in managing your emotions and finding solutions to your professional unhappiness. A therapist can help you assess whether your sense of regret is simply about your current job, or part of a greater mental health concern; whether it’s because the specialty you chose is a bad fit; or whether the stressors of your family life are bleeding into your professional role. Once the factors contributing to your unhappiness are clear, a therapist can help you formulate a solid plan for change. Lastly, a mental health provider can make sure you have plenty of healthy coping strategies (e.g., not wine, beer, or gambling) at your disposal.

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2. Reach out to colleagues. As the report issued by the Massachusetts Medical Society confirms, you’re not alone in your feelings of burnout and unhappiness in the medical field. Consider reaching out to current and former colleagues, employers, associations, and schools for resources on combating physician fatigue. Are there workshops or conferences nearby? Online support groups you can join? Old friends who share similar woes? Gaining the support of others in the health care community who share your concerns can be an effective way to manage those emotions—and possibly gain insights into changing professional roles or other tools for coping with burnout.

3. See what else is out there. Sometimes we get so stuck in our professional frustrations that we become paralyzed. Don’t let that happen to you! It can actually be empowering to look into other options for employment. What are other MDs/DOs doing with their degrees? Do you have former classmates who have gotten creative in their career trajectories? Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to do a little more of that career daydreaming. Just opening your mind to other possibilities can be an effective way to manage unhappiness in your circumstances right now.

Stephanie S. Smith is a writer, Careers by

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