How do I tell my friends and family I don’t want to be a doctor anymore?
If you are considering a career change – or if you’ve already made the transition–talking about it with friends and family could be something you are dreading.
One of my colleagues asked me the other day, “How do I tell my spouse, who helped put me through medical school, that I want to leave medicine?”
Another asked me the same question from a different angle, “My wife is miserable. But how can we pay our bills and other debts if she leaves medicine?”
Still another physician told me, “My husband told me he married a doctor and he’s struggling to consider me not being a doctor.”
Any career transition is tough. Changing jobs or industries might mean you make less money – at least for the short term. It might mean a change in routine – going from working Mon-Fri 9-5 to working nights or Wednesday – Sunday noon to 8. Even if your routine gets better or your pay improves (and it often does!), you’re taking a risk.
Mentally and emotionally it can be even tougher. Many people don’t consider the mental and emotional toll it takes to leave the familiar and venture into uncharted territory – even if that familiar territory is either dangerous or toxic or just incredibly boring. People don’t consider the stress it will place on them to change their routine. And those with families have more than themselves to consider. Maybe a spouse will have to go back to work and you won’t be around to tuck your 5-year-old into bed. Those thoughts can be crippling enough to prevent some people from making a move. If you are able to overcome those potential realities, the next step is telling your friends and family – who will all want an explanation of WHY. Then they will ask HOW and will probably offer you unsolicited advice. Sometimes they have themselves in mind because of the effect they anticipate it will have on them. You’re no longer around to take your aging mother to the doctor on Thursdays or you won’t be able to cook the big meal for the Saturday evening family get together that happens once a month.
While your family and friends do have your best interests in mind, they might be skeptical, especially if they watched you spend 10 years of your life in your current industry and want to start over. Some may not understand the need for less money and more work life balance.
I get it. That’s why I created the community of physicians who are all looking at a non-clinical career or a non-clinical side gig. Sometimes all it takes is a nontraditional job. We all get it and are either working through this process or have been through it. You are not alone.