Dear Dr. Goodhook,
I’m married, and have two small children, ages two and four. Finishing up my last year of residency and spending the evenings and weekends with my family has been a little overwhelming, to say the least.
How do I pull myself from the emotional exhaustion and propel myself to secure the right opportunity for me and my family?
Overwhelmed M.D. in Seattle
Preparing for the physician job search is quite like swimming the English Channel. For you, it’s akin to swimming the English Channel with no life preserver and three family members atop your shoulders.
You need a solid plan, lest you drown.
Your family requires your love and support long into the unknown future. Though spending every free moment with them may seem the noble course of action, without a plan for the years ahead, you risk compromising their happiness (as well as your own).
Find or Make Time for Your Search
It’s imperative to carve out time for yourself to plan for your future.
“But I have no time,” you say. “And besides, my spouse would be angry if I didn’t share child care responsibilities.”
You have the time — use a microscope to find it, if you must. A couple of hours a week is plenty. For good measure, escape to a place devoid of distractions. Like myself, you may find solace in construction-grade earplugs.
Next, let your spouse and scalliwags know that this isn’t “personal time.” You’re not ignoring them — you’re making a plan for a future that will allow you to spend more time with them.
Give this ongoing task the attention it deserves, and schedule it like you would any other appointment. Pencil it in or punch it into an electronic gadget, then commit to it.
After several planning sessions, you’ll find yourself feeling more confident about your physician career and your family’s future. As a bonus, you’ll be rejuvenated and able to give more to your family in the present.
Consider Your Ideal Future
Considering and planning for your best future is a daunting task, and you may not know where to start. Avoid being swept up by an ugly whirlwind of despair and confusion. Focus instead on one thing at a time.
Of course, this isn’t something to be done in mere days or fortnights. Instead, divide your tasks into a manageable timeline that spans several months. The Job Search Timeline and Career Tracker, housed in the Adventures in Medicine Resource Library, are notable tools to keep you on track.
As you look ahead, you may be tempted to focus on dangling carrots — an excellent salary, a luxury car, that outlandish vacation — but remember, young resident, the not-so-tangible things in life often bring the most fulfillment.
Might I point you to this exercise, which may help you gain some needed perspective?
Don’t Forget Family
As you prepare for the road ahead, consider what will make you happy as a physician — your preferred practice setting, salary, location and schedule.
But forget not your spouse and children. Where would they be most happy? Are there adequate schools and activities near the organization you’re considering? What’s the cost of living?
Don’t be a rogue fool and assume you know your spouse’s preferences — ask. Make time to sit down and discuss these issues with open mind and heart.
The pressure of parenthood is immense, and we instinctually feel guilty when we aren’t spending time with our children. Follow these words of wisdom, however, and more time for family will follow.
Fortunate you are that your children have several years left before the unruly terror of adolescence!
What have you done to balance family obligations with residency and your physician career search?
Doctor Career: Sponsors
Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, Providence Health & Services supports “The Dose with Dr. Goodhook” and is partnering with Adventures in Medicine to create an open, inspiring and insightful community for residents and physicians. Click here to learn more about ways that PH&S is making practice purposeful.