I recently attended the college graduation for the eldest son of close friends from residency.
It’s a time of excitement and new beginnings. It’s also closing doors to a chapter in life. Change and uncertainty, whether viewed as positive or negative can bring a wide range of emotions.
I don’t remember my own college graduation commencement address, but the speaker who was an alum, offered a few key points that I thought were valuable enough to share with you.
Wherever you are in your journey, I think these are helpful reminders.
You are not your degree.
The path to becoming a physician is long and arduous. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Not everyone who sets out on the journey arrives at the final destination. In this case, receiving a medical degree.
It is easy to understand how the physician identity came to be so strong.
The hours, effort, and sacrifices made through our undergraduate and graduate medical education occur during our young adult years.
You earned your degree. No one can take that away from you.
And, you are not your degree.
You are the resilient individual who successfully met the requirements.
This is important to remember as you consider the directions in which you want to drive your career.
Expect there to be a grieving process when the time comes for you to hang up your stethoscope for the last time.
Whether it’s because of retirement (voluntary or involuntary) or an intentional decision to pursue opportunities outside of clinical medicine, make space to grieve the loss of this important identity.
You can explore different paths throughout your career.
From clinical practice, academia, public speaking, corporate, entrepreneur, and more, there are endless opportunities for physicians.
Most of us don’t learn about roles outside of clinician and researcher. This is the “traditional path” that’s neatly laid out.
But there are so many ways for you to make a meaningful impact. Clinical medicine and investigator-sponsored research are only two of them.
This is why an increasing number of physicians are seeking a non-traditional path. One that supports the life they want to live and makes an impact on the health of others without sacrificing their own well-being in the process.
Explore what’s out there. Reach out to physicians who are doing something interesting that you’ve never heard of before or don’t know much about.
These two words are everything. Go live your life.
We get so caught up in the routine of day-to-day life that we fail to appreciate the many gifts the day brings.
Busy days turn into busy weeks…months…seasons…and before you know it the years have slipped by.
Give yourself permission to experience your life.
And did you know that you can intentionally design the life you want to live?
You can. I didn’t appreciate that for a long time. So, I’m sharing it often with as many people as I can.
Don’t take everything so seriously. Build community.
And consciously live your one wild and precious life. (Note: Life-threatening wake-up call not required.)
Do not forget your core values.
What got you here, will take you there.
Remember the reasons that you embarked on this path. If you still have your personal statement, reread it.
Better yet, write a new one informed by your experience and based on what matters most to you now.
This can serve as your personal and professional mission statement. Use it to guide your path as you make decisions that shape the direction of your career path.
So, there you have my takeaways from a motivational commencement speech filtered through the lens of a mid-career physician.
May there be something of value to you in the offering above.
My request is that if this sparked something useful for you, please share it with someone who may also benefit.
And, if you’d like to learn more about intentionally designing your own life and career path, let’s talk.
Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll share the link to my calendar so we can get something scheduled.
Life Beyond Clinical Practice with Dr. Michelle Bailey
Hi, I'm Dr. Michelle Bailey.
I help physicians who are unhappy or unsatisfied with their current career find a nonclinical career that they love.
Retiring early from clinical practice after almost 20 years as a board-certified pediatrician I successfully made the leap and transitioned to a nonclinical career.
I'm thriving in my new career and am on a mission to help other physicians do the same with the support, guidance, and community that I wish I had when I was struggling with this decision.
You're invited to connect with me in my private Facebook community for physicians to learn about all things related to your nonclinical career transition. Join here.
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