Who can resist a good song by a great songwriter like Willie Nelson? He has a way with words and melodies that make us want to keep singing his best stuff.
Sadly, one of his iconic songs might need a rewrite, through no fault of his own. Do you remember the lyric?
“Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys Don’t let ’em pick guitars and ride an old horse Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such.”
Willie meant well. And so did millions of parents who only wanted the best for their bright children when they urged, “Become a doctor or lawyer. Contribute to society.” But also, make a good life for yourself in a profession that will always be respected.
Now we must face this harsh reality: Suicide is an occupational hazard for medical students and physicians.
A Sad Song for Talented, Dedicated Medical Minds
A quick visit to KevinMD.com will force you to re-think your presumptions about entering the medical field. The stories are gut-wrenching. Not only does a blog post written by Dr. Pamela Wible share thumbnail sketches of tragic events, the content also features real doctors who have written their own unofficial warnings to anyone considering the profession:
“Surgeon General’s Warning: Residency may cause a psychotic break in previously healthy people.” – Kayla Luhrs, MD
“Is likely to cause loss of compassion, libido, health, wellness, sleep, close relationships, and overall joie de vivre. Apply at your own risk.” – David Kwon, DO
Can our nation afford to lose young, fresh members of the medical field? I have been vocal about my choice to transition into real estate investing because I knew my days were numbered as an emergency medical physician. Not because I was contemplating harming myself. There is a long list of other maladies that will eventually kill you.
- Poor bodily functions
- Sleep deprivation
- Unmitigated stress
- Compassion fatigue
- Unethical behavior
Meanwhile, a doctor’s slow agonizing death may mean the people you love in life are also suffering. They cannot connect with you because you are rarely home. And when you are, you need solitude, quiet and the vain hope of recovering what you’ve lost: a passion for the work.
Passive Income Strategies are Curative
I do not advocate leaving a career in medicine, despite the inhumane educational demands and crushing work hours.
Instead, I consult with physicians who know they are in trouble financially, ten or fifteen years into their most fruitful earning years. I sound the alarm. My message is clear: evaluate your earnings now so that you have the means to retire early, if you choose to.
To expand net worth, I have become a passive income expert, by way of multifamily and commercial real estate. But there are other strategies for investments that pay you as you save lives at a hospital or in a private practice.
In my new book, available in Spring 2017, I examine two types of doctors. One is desperate, because he has not been smart about his finances. Thus, he is overworked, depressed and may, even at this late date in his career, self-medicate with addictive drugs that can begin the slide toward self-neglect and suicide.
The second type of doctor experiences bliss because he (her) has served his community well, thoroughly enjoyed the work, and invested wisely. As a result, he can retire knowing he has made a contribution that included many sacrifices. Yet he and his family are well cared for.
Writing a New Song
Warning the next generation about the rigors of the field is important, even though it will not change the stressful educational methods used to prepare young minds for the profession. As a community, we must encourage innovative thoughts about providing healthcare. In recent years, much energy has gone into delivering insurance to the American people that is affordable.
Too little thought has gone into the lives doctors lead. It is assumed they are rich, and therefore no empathy is spent on them. Years ago, when Americans were advocating for peace, there was a poster that read, “What if they gave a war and nobody showed up?”
A new revolution may be needed to get our best minds to consider this slogan: “What if they built a hospital but there were no doctors to serve in it?”
Willie Nelson deserves the final word. Nowadays, his warnings about the life of the cowboy have a broader implication than he ever could have realized when he first penned his fine tune. So it goes with truly great artists.
“Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
For they never stay home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they love.”