Requested post-- how people maintain relationships when they're so overworked. Like I'm the right person to ask. I've blogged about this a little bit. There's at least one resident I know of that's gotten divorced since residency started. But is it worse than lawyers or finance or other jobs where people work long hours? At least we know our schedules in advance, so people can plan. For the long hours-- and they're often long, absolutely-- at least there are seldom surprises. You're on overnight, you're going to be there overnight. You're not on overnight, you will not be there overnight. There are hours here and there, sure-- you want to get out at 5 and you get an admission and you're stuck until 7. A patient's going downhill and you're there until 9. But it's only on some rotations, and it's not every day. You often know when you're leaving. That's a good thing. From what I know, lawyers don't, bankers don't. Plus, when you're off, you're off. There's not really any working from home, aside from some reading you feel like you ought to do, or studying for boards when that's going on. But you're not working surprise weekends that haven't been scheduled, you're not going in on your days off, you're not logging in to the computer system after dinner to check on things. Attendings have different responsibilities, sure, but being a resident is not a 24/7 job, thankfully. You are not tethered to a Blackberry.
So in that way, it's hard to complain. Also no business travel. No Monday-Thursday at a client site, no airports, no suitcases. Look, people live crappy lives. I mean everyone. I look at what other people do and I can't imagine how they get up in the morning. I know a married couple that lives a thousand miles from each other and the wife flies back and forth every weekend so they can see each other. That is terrible. I know consultants who work all week at client sites and are almost never home. I know people who have to pull unplanned all-nighters at the office-- people with kids. That is really terrible. And in pursuit of what? Money? Is it worth it? I don't know, I don't know how we've created a society where work-- and often not even socially useful work-- is the only piece of a lot of people's lives and it's all about that paycheck. I don't know how people motivate themselves to do it, how the money can seem so important. Or how they have the focus to be motivated by an end game that's very far away-- I mean, the end game is retirement with no money worries, no? I can't imagine what else it can be for a lot of jobs.
I've gotten way off topic. People maintain relationships in the same way anyone maintains a relationship with anyone doing anything. They make it a priority. And, I don't know, I think people go into this-- or at least they go into medical school, I'm not sure if the feeling can persist all the way through to residency-- thinking that there's some magic to being a doctor, some feeling you're going to have while doing the work that's going to carry you through. And maybe some people have that feeling, but I'd be surprised if anyone has it in the moment. You can look back and say, sure, some of that was useful, some of that helped people. But in the moment it's not special, it's just work. In the moment it's typing notes and looking up drugs and entering orders and arguing with the translator phone. And looking at the clock.
And hopefully staying busy enough to distract yourself from the reality that what you do doesn't really matter all that much, most people could do it just as well as you can, most patients aren't getting better, and this is what you've signed up to do for the next forty years. Day after day after day after day.