SDN members see fewer ads and full resolution images. Join our non-profit community!

Can you be a doctor and still have a life and family?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by DocDwarf, Jun 4, 2008.

  1. DocDwarf


    Jun 4, 2008
    My mother is a nurse, and she is very against my aspiration of becoming a doctor. She says that many of the doctors she knows have either decided against having families because their jobs take up so much time or their families take second place behind their job.

    I would like to have a family sometime in the future. Will that be possible as a doctor?
  2. SDN Members don't see this ad. About the ads.
  3. eeyoreDO

    eeyoreDO 2+ Year Member

    Mar 8, 2007
    Haven't you noticed that doctors are all single and never have kids???


    Don't worry, man. It depends on your career and how much you work, but you can find a balance :thumbup:
  4. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Everything in life involves trade offs. If you choose a long and hard career path such as medicine, it means a lot of other things take a back seat. You can have a family in medicine, (most physicians do) but you will not get to spend the same kind of time with them as someone with more controllable hours might.
  5. paradocs we are

    paradocs we are In love with you 2+ Year Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    The Falls

    OP, bear in mind that you can also choose specialties that will cater better to your desired lifestyle than others. And there are effective ways of managing family and career together, such as annual vacations, etc.
  6. UVAbme2009

    UVAbme2009 5+ Year Member

    Jan 26, 2008
    Absolutely. I work under a physician who has two kids in college and is still married. I think the key to making it work is deferring your major plans until after your kids are grown up. He went from physician/researcher to now being Vice Chief of Nephrology (soon to be chief), director of a major research group at UVA, and PI for one of the top acute kidney injury labs in the country. Balancing medicine and family was a concern for me, but knowing somebody who was able to do it definitely eased my concerns.
  7. DoctaJay

    DoctaJay bone breaker Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    San Diego
    It is all about where your priorities are. If you priorities are having a life and family that you can choose a speciality that gives you the freedom for that. Many physicians who have chosen family unfriendly specialties like surgery have moved to working part time in order to spend time with family. Of course, you won't be making as much money as your counterparts, but that is the sacrifice you will have to make.

    Now certain specialties are known for giving you a respectable pay and good hours.

    These include the ROADS to success:

    R: radiology
    O: Ophthamology
    A: Anesthesiology
    D- Dermatology
    S: Surgery (only some surgery specialties like ENT, Urology [kinda], etc.)

    Other specialties that dont' pay that much but leave you good time for family include: pediatrics, PM&R, neurology, etc. I'm sure that I left some out, but the overall answer to your question is Yes, you can have a family. But some specialities are better for it than others.
  8. koolbeenz

    koolbeenz 2+ Year Member

    Mar 19, 2008
    OP, are you a man or a woman? I think having a child while in med school or during your residency is much harder for a woman than a man because the woman has to actually carry the child for 9 months!
  9. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    I don't think anyone really puts surgery in with the ROAD specialties. Sure there are a handful of surgical specialties where a life is possible, but they tend to still require many years of training, and never ever get close to derm hours. Neurology, PM&R, psych and EM tend to have cushy hours. Peds perhaps has reasonable hours in the office, but patients will keep calling you through the night.
  10. vaioman08

    vaioman08 2+ Year Member

    Jan 27, 2008
    Being a Doctor is a lifestyle. You have very little actual "free time". Your life is pretty much dictated as though you are taking a full load of courses, 24/7. You are seeing 20+ patients per day and are fully responsible for anything that may go wrong with them. You have to constantly be thinking about your patients, even when off of work. I personally know a few people who are in medical school, in residency and know quite a few friends whose parents are Doctors. Many of them have complained about their father not being around growing up. Nearly 100% of them drink ALOT and use drugs all throughout the week, which freaks me out. I read in a census before that there's a strong correlation among kids who don't have a father figure around very much and depression/ drug usage. I am sure everyone can agree with this to some extent. Also Physicians have the highest suicide rate of any other profession (there was a documentary about this last week on PBS).

    Of course, you can get into certain types of medicine that allow, to some extent, more freedom (such as radiology), but there's always going to be many days you are on call when you are suppose to be off and may have to go to the ER at 3am to interpret xrays CTs etc. then be scheduled for work at 8am.

    Being a Doctor is beyond a profession; it's a life style commitment. Many people go into medicine with a strong motive for money not realizing what they're getting into. Medicine is not for everyone but it can be rewarding if service to to public is your calling in life.

    For me, serving the public is something I enjoy doing. I like helping people. It makes me feel good. But having a family and a somewhat stress free/ worry free life is just as important. I am in the process of deciding to enter medical school or possibly PA school which definitely seems less of a life style burden.
  11. SiR99

    SiR99 10+ Year Member

    Mar 4, 2007
    Honestly alot of people work long hours just to pay their bills, I dont know why people keep complaining that doctors work so hard, especially since its not one of those laborious jobs that others have to endure.

    Just be happy that you will not be doing physical labor.
  12. TheRealMD

    TheRealMD "The Mac Guy" 5+ Year Member

    May 23, 2007
    Houston, Texas
    Why do people seem to think that only doctors deal with these kinds of problems and not other professions?
  13. Katatonic

    Katatonic 5+ Year Member

    Nov 6, 2007
    You'll be fine as long as you make family time a commitment. Many jobs besides medicine take up quite a lot of time. My dad, a police officer, puts in 80 hour work weeks more often than he'd like which surprises people. They think being a cop is a 9-5 job for some reason, not getting called out at 2am four times a week. All I'm saying is that as long as your are committed to making time for your family then you will (no matter what career you go into), and people have dealt with it before so at least we know that it's possible.
  14. ysk1

    ysk1 Banned Banned

    Aug 24, 2007
    How competitive are those ROADS specialties? Also, what do you mean by "good hours"?
  15. Katatonic

    Katatonic 5+ Year Member

    Nov 6, 2007
    Don't forget Pathology! Woo! Better hours plus less patient contact. Sign me up.
  16. RySerr21

    RySerr21 i aint kinda hot Im sauna 7+ Year Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    among the most competitive you could try and get in to.
  17. Bahadur

    Bahadur Cookies! nom nom nom 2+ Year Member

    Jun 27, 2006
    Do physicians also have the highest rate of divorce, or am i making stuff up?
  18. mednoob

    mednoob I ask noobish questions 7+ Year Member

    May 19, 2008
    Hillbilly Town, Kentucky
    jou just gotta balance it out.
  19. Textuality

    Textuality 2+ Year Member

    May 15, 2007
    I would be interested to know if the ATTEMPTED suicide rate among physicians was higher than average, since I would suspect that ACTUAL suicides might be higher among physicians because they're more effective at it (given the access to lethal drugs and the know how to properly use it, I kind of wonder how many physicians really fail at a suicide attempt..).

    Oh, and yes, it's possible to balance your home life with work life, I"ve known young physicians who manage it beautifully :) And even with another physician as a spouse!
  20. pianola

    pianola MS2 7+ Year Member

    May 23, 2008
    Our pre-health advisor sent out the notice about the PBS documentary to all the pre-health students...I swear, he just wants us to give up our M.D.-quest already!

    I have to say, it was a good documentary, though.
  21. bostonmedical

    bostonmedical 5+ Year Member

    Feb 18, 2008
    I was thinking the same thing. We can't be the only ones.
  22. barcalounger

    barcalounger 2+ Year Member

    Feb 3, 2008
    No. Not only is it impossible, it's actually illegal. I know one guy who was a bigshot at our hospital until word got out that he had a life and family. They came and arrested him right in the OR. No one has ever seen or heard from him since. True story!
  23. TejasMed2009

    TejasMed2009 2+ Year Member

    May 23, 2008
    Here is what I would suggest, find a couple of doctors (or post this in the med student forum, a little better idea) and ask them, rather than a bunch of pre-meds who don't have any experience at all with the issue.
  24. WDeagle

    WDeagle 5+ Year Member

    Feb 1, 2008
    How is surgery considered a lifestyle speciality. From what i understand general surgery is pretty brutal. Ortho, ENT, and Urology are pretty tough as well. Neurosurg and plastics? There is no way these have good lifestyles.
  25. eight sat up

    eight sat up ms0! 10+ Year Member

    Sep 4, 2006
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2011
  26. handbanana

    handbanana 2+ Year Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    My advice:

    Don't listen to anyone with "pre-medical" next to their name.
  27. thebeatblitz

    thebeatblitz 5+ Year Member

    Sep 17, 2006
    Well, I'm here and so are my brother and sister. My dad was also an FMG during the 80's when you had to take the FLEX instead of the USMLE. He also coached my little league team. So...yes?
  28. BluePhoenix

    BluePhoenix 5+ Year Member

    Mar 17, 2007
    I don't know if you can really draw the conclusion that it's being a doctor that causes doctors to have higher rates of drinking, drug use, and suicide and whatnot. I think it may be more the types of people that medicine attracts and their attitudes towards medicine...easily stressed, perfectionist, highly motivated to get to the top...gunners. Not every med student is like that, but there's definitely a MUCH higher proportion compared to other occupations.

    I think if you approach it from a calmer, more realistic perspective...understanding that the probability that you're going to be head of the hospital and have 5 kids getting the same level of attention as if you were a stay at home parent is pretty much zilch. But that doesn't mean that you can't be an excellent doctor and still have quality time with your family. You just need to decide where your time will be and how fast you NEED to progress through the ranks. And maybe you just have 1 or 2 kids and not a basketball team. There's also probably some level of control based and where and what you want to do...obviously worked at an underfunded, understaffed ER in the ghetto might be a bit busier than a hospital in a more rural area where things are a bit calmer.
  29. Cegar

    Cegar 7+ Year Member

    Feb 17, 2008
    It depends on where you are in your career, where you work, what your specialty is, and how many hours you choose to work.

    A lot of doctors work long hours because they love the work. Some doctors work fewer hours because they would rather spend time with their families. Some doctors have to spend a lot of time at work because they have to for whatever reason.

    You can control whether you go into a specialty with uncontrollably long hours or not.

    It is, more or less, up to you as to how much time you get to spend away from work.
  30. DrJosephKim

    DrJosephKim Advisor Physician SDN Advisor 7+ Year Member

    Mar 29, 2008
    Keep in mind that you can always work part-time, get into non-clinical work (which can sometimes be more busy, but that really depends on your career path), or do a combination and balance your work/life schedule.

    As many have mentioned above - priorities will drive your time allocation. You have limited control during your education/training, but once you're done, the world is open to opportunities.
  31. Nanon

    Nanon An urban myth. 10+ Year Member

    Feb 15, 2000
    Word. I work 50 - 60 hours a week most of the time right now. My job is has unpredictable hours, tight deadlines, and lots and lots of stress. I haven't had a real vacation in 2 years. My kid sees me an average of 2-3 hours a day, and my husband sees me even less.

    However: My kid is in an excellent pre-school. The 2-3 hours a day I spend with him are pretty much focused on him, and it's the best time of my day. We try to do something fabulous every weekend. My husband and I have date nights and try to spend an hour with each other every night.

    I had a conversation with a resident not long ago, and he seems to think that I will be less tired and have more time for my family while I'm in medical school than I do right now. The hours are consistant, the stress is predictable, and I'll get vacations. Real vacations. With days off and everything. :love:

    Residency will suck. After that? Well, most of the trauma surgeons I work with have kids and families. Not saying it's easy, but they're doing ok. Stop stressing yourselves out so much.

  32. fireflygirl

    fireflygirl The Ultimate Blindian 7+ Year Member

    Jul 17, 2007
    My father spent the first 12 years of my life finishing his residency and building his practice. I hardly ever saw him and have very little recollection of him before that age. Even after that, he was hardly home, but when he was, he was 100% there. In the meantime, our mother chose to stay home and manage the house and primarily raise us. She gave up her career and was as patient as a saint with my father, especially when he wasn't around much. She never lashed out at him about giving up on her dreams and she still has no regrets about staying home. That doesn't mean she didn't have a really hard time a lot but she knew that she had to take the backseat that our family could have the opportunitites that we did. Over time, my father was able to take more time off and is always there for us. Now him and my mom have more time than they know what to do with.

    Shyrem talks a lot about this too - you can have both but unfortuntely one partner may have to sacrifice more than the other. You have to have a partner that is not going to grudgingly going to want to take over the responsiblities of the home but because they support your dreams and goals and want to be a part of them. That doesn't mean it's easy all the time, but with a patient, genuinely supportive, and strong partner, I think you are able to get close to having the best of both worlds.
  33. BlackPower2012

    BlackPower2012 2+ Year Member

    Mar 22, 2008
    Umpa lumpa Land
    You MUST have an understanding spouse, and must be willing to sacrafice a part of your career, i.e long hours=more money- so you may have to choose a more family friendly specialty.
  34. suwaifo


    Nov 16, 2007
    Are kids these days that wimpy? "OMG my dad wasn't around, I need drugs to deal with life because life is so hard." I love the "nearly 100%", you make it sound so bad. The reason that it's "nearly 100%" is because the other kids without dads are actually doing something to make something out of their lives. They aren't sitting around answering internet polls or writing in their livejournals.

    Doctors aren't the only ones that have to think about their jobs outside of work. Teachers do the same.
  35. Nanon

    Nanon An urban myth. 10+ Year Member

    Feb 15, 2000
    A lot of us think about our jobs outside of work, and have huge responsibilities both at work and and at home. Lots of folks work 2 jobs to keep food on the table and the lights on.

    As a parent, I can tell you that you really don't have to be a doctor to **** up your kids. You can work at Walmart, or be a stay at home parent, or even a pre-school teacher, and still mess them up plenty. There are things that parents can do to mitigate the other damage they do (because they're humans)... be consistent, love them, feed them, have a sense of humor, have patience, listen to them...

    You will need a solid partner, and a solid network of family and friends to make it work well. But that's probably the case no matter what someone does.

  36. Character

    Character 5+ Year Member

    Apr 23, 2008
    yes just work hard
  37. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    First, it's not ROADS, it's ROAD. Only the above poster puts S on there, as I mentioned in my post above. second, it's outdated. Currently the A is not as competitive as the others. And folks are going into things like Rad Onc (which didn't exist when ROAD was coined) as a competitive field with high salary and nice hours. And EM which has a decent salary and great, albeit sometimes nighttime hours, but not as competitive.

    By nice hours for ROAD folks are generally talking 50-60 hour a week range. Generally toward the lower end when you get more senior, and the higher end while you are more junior. Hours in less cushy fields tend to be in the 60-70 hour range and many surgeons frequently work in the 70-100 hour range. (Residents can only work 80 hour weeks, but that limitation comes off post-residency).

    Starting the day before the sun and having periodic overnight call tends to drive physician hours up pretty rapidly. Because folks get in at daybreak, many tend to work 12-13 hours and still get home for dinner.
    If you don't like to work long hours, or getting up really early (and by corollary going to sleep really early), medicine is probably not the right field.
  38. supertrooper66

    supertrooper66 Banned

    Apr 28, 2008
    i would say YES it's definitely possible since my dad does it. he's a cardiologist, one of the most busy and on-call specialties, and he certainly has time for a family life. i think the trick is also being in a group as opposed to working by yourself. there are 6 other cardiologists in his group, so he is only on-call 1 out of every 6 weekends. sometimes a group member will ask you to cover him one weekend, but then this gives you leverage for your own time off and to be covered by him when it's time for your vacation.

    my dad generally works 8am to 7 pm Mon-Friday, 1 of every 6 weekends and is married, has 3 kids (2 of us just graduated college and the other one is starting HS soon), and heavily active in our "church." we've always taken real badass family vacations, too, including going to the hotspots of the US and plenty of international traveling. when he wants time for international travel, he takes 2-3 weeks off. you plan ahead and schedule your time-off.

    and yes, he makes a lot of money haha. seems like a pretty good life to me! i know there are specialties that run till 5 pm only, but i personally found those ones more boring. like radiology, anesthesiology, don't get too much patient contact. you get plenty of it in cardiology, tho! also, I want to go into a super cool specialty involving an integral part of the body, i.e. the lungs, heart, brain, surgery, etc. i think i'd get bored as a radiologist looking at xrays all day or like a dentist. idk, i know they get good hours and pay but i think i'd get bored working with teeth all the time. teeth aren't that vital...what's the worst thing that could happen? you lose your teeth? you can live and eat without your teeth. my grandfather has been doing it for 20+ years, and he's happy! lol
  39. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Dentists are not physicians. And few to no medical specialties end at 5pm these days, unless they start many hours earlier in the am.

    Bear in mind that hours and salaries of folks getting into the field today are not going to be as good as folks who got in when your dad did. So basically if you have to look to an earlier generation for an example, it's not representative of what happens to folks coming out of residency today. Repeat, this is NOT the same career as when your dad came out of residency. The landscape is totally different, and not nearly as family friendly in a lot of the noncompetitive specialties. You'd be hard pressed to find recently minted physicians coming out of residency and working less than 12 hours a day, except in some of the cushier specialties. Certainly not in cards these days.
  40. supertrooper66

    supertrooper66 Banned

    Apr 28, 2008
    i know dentists are not physicians. i just used that as an example of a career with good pay and good hours.

    that's JUST coming out of residency, though. once you are established, your time is really up to you. once the "new" generation of physicians start to age, the even newer generation will have to be working the longer hours and we'll get into my dad's current setting. of course, it's harder when you first finish your residency. once you're in a group, established, etc. i would think you'd have more control of your hours. like, i said, my dad goes into work at 8am usually and returns home 7pm-ish. in the summer i'd notice he'd many times wait till 9am to go in and i'd be like "wtf how can you still be here...?" he'd be like "i'm my own boss. all the scheduling of patients is based on when i want them." if you schedule too few patients, obviously you'll make less money that day, though. i don't know...we're in the midwest in a city of ~350,000 ppl, so less competition? maybe i'll understand what you're stating once i'm in your shoes? i understand it'd be harder right when you finish your residency, but why wouldn't it even out later when you become established? the longer you've worked, the more you make due to more experience. if you're making more money, you could afford to cutdown your hours. so i don't understand what you're getting at. care to clarify more?

    keep in mind, he does get called into work at 2am at least 1-2 times every week or two.

    also, what about like EM? my friend's dad is an EM doc and only works 7 hour shifts a day. the EM schedule is weird, though, and the shifts are all over the place. you can choose your shift like 10am-5pm, 6pm-1am, 1am-8am, etc. those are pretty good hours, but EM docs also make considerably less $$ than like surgeons or cardiologists. at least that's the impression i'm getting by googling "average physician salaries" haha. i know how much my dad makes but not other physicians i personally know
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2008
  41. lol, wow. DEFINITELY a generalization.
  42. DenaliView

    DenaliView 2+ Year Member

    Jan 13, 2008

    I agree with you. I have issues when people tell ya that becoming a physician and having a family is not an issue and point out so may physician have kids.... Yeah sure but is it working out well for them. Are they happy and feel like they are able to have some balance. Their must be a trade off, with only 24 hrs a day with 12 hour work days and a few hours needed for sleep how much time do you have left over for a family. And out of that how much of that is quality time (not tired and cranky from a hectic schedule). I am not saying it is not possible, but I do think it is something we should really contemplate as a pre-med and how we practically plan to make it work. I love advice from those who have been then and have done it.
  43. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Nope, the model has changed since your dad got in. He followed the model of the prior generation, but that door swung closed a while back. Things have changed and the folks coming into groups now are not getting on the same path to becoming established. In many specialties they are being paid less, and worked harder for longer. This is not your father's oldsmobile. You do yourself a disservice if you look to that generation as the model for your future. That ship has sailed.
  44. supertrooper66

    supertrooper66 Banned

    Apr 28, 2008
    haha, basically, my point was i don't care for working on teeth all my life :scared:
  45. supertrooper66

    supertrooper66 Banned

    Apr 28, 2008
    really...dang, that sucks haha. i definitely have a new topic to research now. i'll wait till i get home, tho...first person to ask: my dad! he trains residents for a 1/3rd of the year or something, so he probably has an idea on what you're telling me. thanks
  46. aamna0601

    aamna0601 zygote. 2+ Year Member

    Jan 15, 2008
    I mother was a physician with a very successful busy practice, she also pursued a fellowship in oncology etc. My father was never around even though he wasnt a physician he was always off looking at properties and stuff, home less than my mom.

    But I have no recollection of being alone or lonely or depressed or anything. I had the best childhood and adolescent life ever. Supposedly my mom wasnt at home a lot but we were at her practice a lot. I remember playing hide and seek in the empty patient rooms and racking up a tab at the pharmacists with Bubblicious. And when we did see her it was always quality time.

    To say that shes been anything but the best mom would be a blatant lie. And I really think its amazing to have such a highly educated mother, makes all the difference in the world for the children's motivations, aspirations, and attitude toward professionalism, college, and taking on challenges in general. By the way, because my mom is a doctor I knew alot of things about medicine that she told me, when I was like six, and I could speak spanish (Im not a native speaker) because of her patient population. Lots of perks, no downsides for me but then I have always been very independent and never needed to be 'micromanaged.'

Share This Page