As the first snowflakes of the season fall briskly and purposefully to the ground, I feel grateful to be working as a family doctor. Although the news about our strained healthcare system is often grim, I am proud to be part of it and can only hope that things will get better for healthcare workers and patients alike.
It has been about two months since I started working as a licensed family doctor at a community clinic close to home. It has been a fairly smooth transition from residency life. In fact, I have felt the layers of stress melt off, leaving me feeling much more balanced compared to the last 6 years of my medical training. Part of this is unique to my situation. I was not your traditional medical student. I started medical school in my mid-thirties as a married mother of two young children with a career already behind me. I lived far from my university and training hospitals, facing a 2-3 hour daily commute, often in a mental fog when driving back from an overnight shift. The mum guilt was real as I woke up morning after morning, the house quiet and dark as I stepped out early before rush hour traffic, my husband and children still fast asleep. Many times I asked myself if I had made the right decision leaving behind a stable senior position, throwing our routine and finances out of whack as I headed back to school. The amount of tears shed and the toll on my mental health were at times severe.
Now that I am on the other side of training, I can say the sacrifices were worth it. My family learned how to pool together to support each other during those more difficult moments. My husband, ever patient and supportive found ways to encourage me during those long shifts, sending me funny videos of the kids singing goodnight to me and sending me virtual hugs and kisses. Now, that I have more time with the kids, I hold this time so precious as just a short time ago, I was pining for them. Simple things like playing a board game at the dinner table give me so much joy.
My first two months working independently have truly been a rewarding experience in many ways. I work with a wonderful team who are encouraging and made it easy for me to transition to working at the clinic. I love the variety of patients I see every day. My youngest patient is a newborn while my oldest is 95 years old. Each day brings something new and unpredictable. I am intellectually stimulated, challenged, puzzled, and humbled every day! There are of course difficult days and challenging interactions however this has only been an opportunity to grow and refine my social skills.
Currently, I feel that there is a good balance between work, family life, social life and my hobbies. I could always work more but I recognize that doing so would be a risk to my mental health and family life. If residency taught me anything, it is that life is short and we must live according to our values. For me that means doing meaningful work in a healthy way while being there for my family and friends.