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Hard Work Index

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:04pm

I’m currently fielding all kinds of wonderful offers for jobs.  Christmas time has truly arrived, in many ways.  Tales of excellent income potential and inspiring patient populations tumble around my head regularly.

But guess what every job offer has in common:  WORK.

I’m not opposed to working hard.  Anybody who drags themselves through undergraduate bio and chem majors, medical school and years of residency should have at least some work-ethic cred.

But my view of “hard work” has changed slowly over my years in residency.  This is why I probably was primed to really take home the message delivered to me from one of my favorite surgeons in our hospital.  I should mention that he waved his barely-functioning right (and dominant) hand at me as he gave me this adominition:  Don’t work too hard.  It just isn’t worth it.

Sure.  The European thing.  Wine and 2-hour lunches.  4-day work weeks.  Great.  I’ve kinda always thought that sort of work life was reserved for the rich and asset-ed.  For those of us in debt and assts-LESS, the equation is different.

But as I spoke with this surgeon, he made a strong impression.  Young, at only 54 yeras, he recently suffered a serious stroke.  Sadly, the part of his brain that suffered most is the part that controls his right hand.  The hand he uses to perform surgery.  In essence, this guy was struck down in the prime of his career.  He’s aggressively pursuing rehab, but for now he can only assist in surgery.  He has improved significantly, but he’s looking at other lines of work, too.

This guy had a good cholesterol profile.  His blood pressure was controlled well on medications.  He ate well.  He is not overweight.  His only problem, he said, was that he never exercised.  He never really did anything, except work.  In the rare moments when he wasn’t working over the past 20 years, he hung out with family and restored his classic 1960’s Mercedes.

Every job I’ve looked at requires quite a large number of hours.  Many of the hours will be spent dealing with stipulations from lawyers, insurance companies and governments, but this is another discussion.

Many people I know say that medicine is a GREAT…hobby.  It’s not great as a job.  The education is so expensive that you are relegated to virtual indentured servitude by the time you’re ready to start practicing.  The only way to get out, is to work like a dog.  Many people begrudge a doctor’s salary, but they’re usually doing it from their couch, watching the game, while the doc is missing yet another morning at church with his family as he gamely walks into yet another patient room.

Long hours are part of being a doctor.  Sometimes, you don’t even notice as they pass because you are so emotionally and mentally involved with the job.  But when you finally do go home, and so much has been left forgotten or unattended, it’s hard to see the value in the enterprise sometimes.

In choosing a job, I’m using this surgeon as my hard work “index” case.  I’ll work nearly as hard as him, but unapologetically not as hard.  It may take us until the next ice-age to pay off the capitalists who are getting rich on my loans.  But I’m not going to donate the motor function of an entire hemisphere of my body to make it happen any faster.

I’m currently fielding all kinds of wonderful offers for jobs.  Christmas time has truly arrived, in many ways.  Tales of excellent income potential and inspiring patient populations tumble around my head regularly.

But guess what every job offer has in common:  WORK.

I’m not opposed to working hard.  Anybody who drags themselves through undergraduate bio and chem majors, medical school and years of residency should have at least some work-ethic cred.

But my view of “hard work” has changed slowly over my years in residency.  This is why I probably was primed to really take home the message delivered to me from one of my favorite surgeons in our hospital.  I should mention that he waved his barely-functioning right (and dominant) hand at me as he gave me this adominition:  Don’t work too hard.  It just isn’t worth it.

Sure.  The European thing.  Wine and 2-hour lunches.  4-day work weeks.  Great.  I’ve kinda always thought that sort of work life was reserved for the rich and asset-ed.  For those of us in debt and assts-LESS, the equation is different.

But as I spoke with this surgeon, he made a strong impression.  Young, at only 54 yeras, he recently suffered a serious stroke.  Sadly, the part of his brain that suffered most is the part that controls his right hand.  The hand he uses to perform surgery.  In essence, this guy was struck down in the prime of his career.  He’s aggressively pursuing rehab, but for now he can only assist in surgery.  He has improved significantly, but he’s looking at other lines of work, too.

This guy had a good cholesterol profile.  His blood pressure was controlled well on medications.  He ate well.  He is not overweight.  His only problem, he said, was that he never exercised.  He never really did anything, except work.  In the rare moments when he wasn’t working over the past 20 years, he hung out with family and restored his classic 1960’s Mercedes.

Every job I’ve looked at requires quite a large number of hours.  Many of the hours will be spent dealing with stipulations from lawyers, insurance companies and governments, but this is another discussion.

Many people I know say that medicine is a GREAT…hobby.  It’s not great as a job.  The education is so expensive that you are relegated to virtual indentured servitude by the time you’re ready to start practicing.  The only way to get out, is to work like a dog.  Many people begrudge a doctor’s salary, but they’re usually doing it from their couch, watching the game, while the doc is missing yet another morning at church with his family as he gamely walks into yet another patient room.

Long hours are part of being a doctor.  Sometimes, you don’t even notice as they pass because you are so emotionally and mentally involved with the job.  But when you finally do go home, and so much has been left forgotten or unattended, it’s hard to see the value in the enterprise sometimes.

In choosing a job, I’m using this surgeon as my hard work “index” case.  I’ll work nearly as hard as him, but unapologetically not as hard.  It may take us until the next ice-age to pay off the capitalists who are getting rich on my loans.  But I’m not going to donate the motor function of an entire hemisphere of my body to make it happen any faster.

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