This is Why You Can’t Afford to be a Doctor in 2019
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I went into medicine to make a difference and help people, as well meaning pre-meds so often do.
Three short years into private practice, and I’m ALREADY completely burned out.
I’m over half a million dollars in debt, physician reimbursement is declining, patients are frustrated because they don’t understand their insurance requirements, and physician burnout is crazy prevalent.
So much for optimism.
I really do try. My motivation comes in waves.
There are patients that make everything I do totally worth it, but then there are some serious nightmare situations I’ve had to deal with in 3 short years.
Most of the time, I legit cannot.
There’s a reason that physician burnout is so totally real, and physician suicide is on the rise.
I think it’s a combination of several things.
Here’s why you can’t afford to be a doctor in 2019.
1. The Student Loan Crisis
Lord, have mercy is it ever a crisis.
I’m certainly not here to whine or blame “the system”. I take full responsibility for the ridiculous amount of student loan debt that I have acquired.
It was me, signing my name on that dotted line as a bright eyed and bushy tailed 22 year old.
I am 100% determined to pay every dime owed to that Sallie Mae monster, and I will.
The real problem is that we continue to believe the lie that “everyone has debt, especially doctors“.
We justify the debt and say, “it’s fine, take out the max amount allowed because you’ll make SO much money, and pay it back right away.”
I should have evaluated the negative things about being a doctor, and asked questions like…
- Exactly how much will I make?
- IS it enough to pay off my student loans before I die?!
- Is there a way to pay for medical school without loans?
- How can I make a budget while I’m in school and borrow the least amount possible? Is there a class on that?
- How much interest will I accumulate over the years?
- What’s the return on my investment in a podiatry degree?
Related Post: How to Pay Off Six Figure Student Loan Debt
2. Living up to the facade that Doctors make a ton of money
I certainly didn’t go in to medicine expecting to make millions of dollars each year.
I did hope to be able to live comfortably though.
My husband and I live quite frugally, use coupons, and drive reasonable cars. We are even still renting because we know we are not financially ready to buy a house.
We still find ourselves living paycheck to paycheck, trying to make minimum payments on our student loans and keep the lights on at our practice.
This is fine. It’s the season of life we are in. BUT…let’s not lie to innocent pre meds and tell them to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans because they will EASILY pay them back with their million dollar paychecks.
Instead, let’s teach our kids, our college students, and medical professionals simple financial skills like budgets, and living on less than you make.
That’s my mission here now!
3. Your Medical Degree is Only as Good as Your Google Reviews.
Should this bother me? Hell YES.
I have 3 kids to feed, and just because you’re upset that you owe money, now you are going to trash my business on the internet? This happens.
I probably won’t ever see that money (see point #2), and now the internet thinks I suck at life.
I could rant about this for seven paragraphs, but I’ll stop here. It’s pretty self explanatory.
4. Patients (and Doctors) Don’t Understand their Health Insurance Contracts
Patients don’t understand health insurance basics, and what they might owe based on their co-pay, co-insurance, or deductible.
I’m not blaming them, because I couldn’t tell you much about my plan either. Even when you think you’ve met your deductible, there’s an out of pocket max and other fun surprises around every corner.
The problem is people don’t take the time to learn about their plan, and then when you ask for payment, they hate you.
99.9% of the time I have no clue what the heck patients are going to owe.
Even if we check the benefits and they say the patient will owe X amount, and we collect and feel all proud of ourselves for being proactive….8 months later we will get a letter from the insurance company stating “Whoops, we paid you too much, please send us a check IMMEDIATELY for $1500, and track down the patient and have them pay you, because they actually owe it.”
Um, yeah okay. That’s going to go real well. Let me just go down my list of bills and decide who’s not getting paid this month. (Spoiler alert…it’s me.)
Related Post: Understanding Your Health Insurance
5. Your Staff and Patients think YOU’RE the problem.
Listen, I don’t want to make you pay a bajillion dollars for your surgery, but you have a huge deductible.
If you don’t pay it, no one is going to pay it.
I’m literally just trying to make minimum payments on my student loans, and pay my staff, and buy groceries. I promise I’m not out golfing our buying a Mercedes with your money.
I can’t afford health insurance anymore than my patients can. A group health insurance plan for my employees almost made us have to close our doors it was so ridiculously expensive.
When patients don’t pay, we don’t get paid.
The only people getting paid are the health insurance companies, and apparently Patrick Dempsey in the Cigna commercials.
If people only knew the amount of hours your doctor is up at night worrying. Worrying that they won’t be able to pay their staff, or that their patients can’t afford the treatment they need, or that things are just going to get worse.
This brings us to point number six. Physician burnout is oh so freaking real.
6. Physician Burnout is REAL.
I think it’s really super sad, that just 3 years into private practice I already suffer from physician burnout.
What is physician burnout?
- Emotional exhaustion- Low energy and feeling like you can’t go on.
- Depersonalization- Becoming cynical and sarcastic (um, hello…this blog post!).
- Lack of sense of personal accomplishment- You forget your WHY.
Why is Physician Burnout scary?
Physician’s suffering from burnout, may experience symptoms such as lower quality patient care, higher medical errors, substance abuse, and even suicide.
It’s important to try to focus on the good you do, and the patients that are grateful for your help. Unfortunately it’s much easier said than done.
At the end of the day, is becoming a physician more trouble than it’s worth?
Related Post: Self Care Ideas for Busy Women
I often feel like I traded half a million dollars in debt for a medicine cabinet full of anxiety medications.
I honestly think that the majority of the stress stems from the poor financial structure of student loans.
Honestly, if I didn’t have debt, I would simply step away from a career that is making me sick.
At the end of the day, I just want to be happy.
I’m making it my mission to help other women approach a career in medicine with caution, and a solid financial plan in place.
I’m not crazy enough to think people are going to be able to afford to pay cash for medical school, but we can do much better at controlling our spending, and budgeting for the future.
Related Post: How to Make a Budget You Can Stick To
When you have financial freedom, you have choices.
You can choose to take time off after you have a baby, or work part time, or leave the profession if it’s literally killing you.