How A Surgeon Balances Work & Life…

What’s up, everybody? Hey, thanks for watching this video.

In this video, we’re gonna talk about work/life balance as a surgeon. A lot of you guys ask me, “Hey, dude, do I have a life if I go into surgery? It seems really cool, doing the surgery, but is there a life also outside of work?”

I think a lot of surgeons will tell you, “No, it’s not a great work/life balance.” They are probably correct because not a lot…I would say the majority of surgeons don’t have a great work/life balance. Mine is okay, but I do feel like I work quite a bit. A lot of my friends are like, “Dude, you fucking work a lot.” And I’m like, “Yeah. Yeah, I know. That’s how it goes.”

But I think that, also, you can create what you want. It used to be a general surgeon or a cardiothoracic surgeon probably a cardiothoracic surgeon, honestly, is one of the worst work/life balances. Neurosurgeon’s probably really bad. Ortho is not terrible, but they can get overwhelmed if you get in the wrong situation.

My point is that when you’re a resident, it’s horrible. You work 80 hours a week. Sometimes you work more than that. You’re not supposed to. I believe, at this time, our max is 80 hours a week but oftentimes you go over that. Not because you have to or anybody wants you to do that but you also feel an obligation to the patients and an obligation to your team because, a lot of times, that 80 hours a week is really – it sounds stupid – but it’s not enough to take care of the patients and get all the work done and not screw your teammates up. That depends if you’re in a good team or not a good team. If you don’t like those people, maybe you’ll just be like, “Oh, here’s all the work. (Bleep) tough (bleep).” But a lot of times, you don’t wanna do that and so you don’t wanna leave.

Residency, it’s horrible. Your relationships suffer, your health suffers, your mental stability suffers. We had…I believe we had people leave for depression and things like that when I was in residency as well. We had a lot of – it’s usually about 25-35% – do not finish. Either get fired or quit residency in general surgery. Ours was closer, I think, to 35%. We had at least one person leave each year. We had a five-year program. We had six people at the beginning. It’s a five-year program. You have six people each…Or six residents each year. They march through the years. By the time I was a fifth-year, we had five residents and we had switched a lot. We had lost a bunch of people. It’s a really, really difficult time in your life. It sucks really bad.

I had one orthopedic surgeon say, “Residency just is (bleep) horrible. You just get through it.”

Not all residencies are like that, but I think a lot of the surgical residencies are like that. I think they’re improving, but it’s a very difficult time in your life. But it also forces you to become better, become a better time management person, become more efficient, become smarter, learn things at light speed. It really makes you a better overall person when you finish, but it is very tough.

What’s an interesting thing about humans is that when you do something for a really long time, that’s ingrained in you. So when you work that much in residency and you don’t have a lot of home life, when you get out, it’s weird. The things you used to do all the time you’re like, “Oh, I don’t know. I really have some work to do.” The work pulls you, and you can get sucked into just working all the time. I actually, it took me a couple years to decompress from my residency. Literally a couple years.

I went through private practice, and I took it easy – much easier – than residency for a little while and that helped me to decompress and get that balance back.

When you have a normal job as a surgeon, you can – depending on the situation – get sucked back into working more than 100 hours a week. At this point, though, there’s a lot of different options. There is private practice. So what the old model was is essentially one surgeon or a small group of surgeons working together, and they’re super busy. So they never have any time off and they’re on-call all the time, two to three days a week. That’s a 24…oftentimes, you’re staying up in the middle of the night and stuff. So that ends up getting crazy and sucking you into working all the time.

What we’ve started to see happen now is that surgery jobs are becoming like emergency medicine jobs where I work a 12-hour shift. In this month, I have 15 12-hour shifts to do or I have 12 12-hour shifts to do and that is a full-time job. That ends up being, if you’re counting, you’re doing 15…14-15 12-hour shifts, that’s 14-15 days a month you’re working. That means you’re off two weeks a month. That means you work 26 weeks a year, and you have 26 weeks off a year. And that could be a full-time salary. So that’s what I do as well.

I think that that really provides me a chance to take a break, step back, go somewhere else, read a (bleep) book for a week, not do medicine. You’re still in it a little bit, but you’re not quite so deep in the green everyday, in the trenches kind of thing. That really helps me keep the balance and do things like this and keep my (bleep) sanity and be happy and all that stuff.

Because, like I talked about in other videos, a lot of surgeons are not happy. They can make a lot of money and they can work and they can do some amazing (bleep) but at the end of the day, they’re really (bleep) upset because they lost their life to this job. We do some great (bleep) and you save lives like (bleep) for reals, but it does become a job. After a while, you’re like, “Shit. I gave up my life for this job. I’m not sure that…” You’re not quite the superhero that you really think that you’re gonna be. Everyday can’t be another catastrophic emergency that you save everybody. You know what I’m saying? Because it just…It’s overwhelming, and you’re gonna burn out at some point.

That’s actually a good video. I’m gonna do a burnout video as well.

So can you have a good work/life balance in surgery? I do think you can, but I don’t think it’s that common. Let’s put it that way. You really have to work at that. I think it’s gonna get better, going forward in the future. More people are gonna want that work/life balance. I mean, you (bleep) millennials don’t wanna work, number one, so you’re forcing medicine to change.

Just (bleep) with you guys. Just take it easy, okay? Don’t give me any hate mail. I obviously like to joke around a lot. I can make fun of Gen-X too. We have gray hairs and wrinkles and (bleep). It’s not that fun.

That’s the deal. I think you can. It does take work. You really have to pick your job correctly. You have to make sure that those other people in your group or job or, whoever they are, that they value that as well. If they don’t value a good balance, you’re gonna get (bleep). It’s gonna suck bad. You’re gonna work all the time, and nobody’s gonna care.

I have people that I work with that value that work/life balance, and it’s still hard. I still get sucked in, and I’ll work…This last November I worked every single day except Thanksgiving only because I was like, “I’m not (bleep) working Thanksgiving. I worked it last year.”

That’s just how it goes. We’re in demand, which is cool. We provide a really valuable service, but you have to draw that line. If you don’t draw the line, then you’ll just be taken and eaten alive and the administrators will love for you to work every single day. They’ll have no problem with that. They’ll pay you for it, but only if it’s in your contract. You gotta make sure it’s in your contract too. That’s another thing. You can work lots and lots and not get paid for it if you get in the wrong group.

That was just some rambling and no stories. I didn’t even do a story in that video. That sucks. I don’t know. We’ll see how this one goes.

Hey, thanks everybody for watching these videos. You guys are awesome. Subscribe, like, share, and comment. Definitely comment. I love your comments, and I try and comment everyone back. If I don’t get to you, I will…Just comment again, and I will.

All right, take care. See you in the next one.

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