There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the medical field. If you’re thinking of becoming a physician, debunking these misconceptions is important in managing your goals and expectations. Let’s talk about some of the more common myths about doctors that I’ve discovered in my years as an MD, and the truth behind them.
5 Myths About Doctors: The Reality Behind Them
1. As a Doctor, You Will Have No Life
Are you going to be busy, stressed out, overwhelmed? More than likely. Does this mean that you’re signing your life away? Not necessarily.
Doctors are notoriously overworked. Some research has found that 80% of physicians suffer from moderate to severe emotional exhaustion. Other studies say that around 46% experience at least one symptom of burnout. It’s not a fluke. It’s a pattern.
You’re likely going to work a lot of hours, yes. And sometimes, these hours can be unpredictable, not to mention emotionally draining. The key is being proactive in taking care of your own well-being.
Does that mean it’s going to be easy? No. However, it’s vital to actively designate time for family and friends, physical activities, and plenty of rest and sleep. These things will help you be an even better doctor.
You might not have a perfect balance between work and your personal life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make room for both! And importantly, the industry is becoming more aware of the wellness of doctors (and nurses) and how it needs to be more of a priority. While we have a lot of work to do, conditions are improving.
2. You are Guaranteed Wealth
Some doctors indeed earn a generous living. But this also depends on your experience level, state, and specialty, if you have one.
The numbers fluctuate from year to year. But the average annual income for a medical doctor floats somewhere around $224,000. The highest outliers are closer to $400,000 and the lowest are around $23,000. For specialists, this number can be closer to $329,000 a year.
If you’re in the midwest, doctors earn an average of $319,000 yearly. In the northeast, the annual income is around $275,000.
Remember, too, that at the beginning of your career, you’re probably going to be paying off your student loans. As of 2019, the average cost of public medical school was $36,775 per year for in-state students and $60,802 for out-of-state students. For private schools, it’s closer to $59,775 per year. And, in the US, tuition and fees are currently increasing about 2-3% every year.
This could take a huge cut of your salary, but also remember that it’s temporary. Over time, you’ll pay off that debt and earn more yearly. Just remember that it’s not going to be as simple as graduating and immediately bringing six figures home.
3. It’s All About Saving Lives
Yes, that’s the ultimate goal. However, what many aspiring doctors don’t realize is that there’s so much more involved here. You’re also going to be dealing with other hospital staff members, insurance companies, hospital administrators, and the families of your patients.
At any given moment, you have to wear a lot of hats and juggle a lot of balls. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it’s one of the more common myths about doctors that, plain and simple, just isn’t true.
4. Doctors Have All the Answers
Do they have a lot of the answers? You bet. That’s what happens after so many years of schooling, training, and experience. And as you gain even more experience, your library of knowledge will continue to grow.
However, as a doctor, you should never assume that you know it all, have seen it all, and can solve everything. There will always be new discoveries, twists and turns. The minute you stop being open to learning is the minute that your career will take a negative turn. As a doctor, you should never stop listening, learning, paying attention, and keeping your mind open to new things.
Also, keep in mind that expecting yourself (and other doctors) to have all the answers is not just unrealistic. It’s also an unhealthy expectation that can have severe negative repercussions on your well-being. You don’t want to put that kind of pressure on yourself. You’re still human.
5. You’re Going to Be More Respected
This one’s a little murkier. Let me elaborate.
Sometimes, doctors fresh out of medical school think they’re going to set foot in the hospital or clinic and immediately command everyone’s attention and respect.
We all work hard — that goes without saying. However, the medical field is no different from most others: Respect is earned, not just given because of your title.
Doctors must also always remember that in medicine, you work as a team. It’s not just about you. Your nurses and other medical staff are just as vital as you are. Part of your team is also your patients and their families. You are not working alone, and your job isn’t the only one that matters.
These myths about doctors are meant to inform you but also reassure you:
- Are you going to be very busy? Yes. But you don’t have to give up your life.
- Do you have great earning potential? Yes. But it’s not guaranteed and there are variables that can affect it.
- Will you save lives? Many. But you’ll also have a lot of other responsibilities.
- Are you going to have a vast wealth of knowledge? Absolutely. But the learning never stops.
- Do you deserve respect? Without a doubt. And so does everyone else!
The road to becoming a doctor — and the journey of being one — isn’t easy. But for those who really want it, it’s worth it.
Which one of these myths about doctors surprised you the most? Find me on social media and let me know!