Ever since I started my self-imposed sabbatical away from the world of medicine (both clinical & non-clinical) 6 months ago, people I meet, be they family members, friends or even newly acquainted persons, ask me why I stopped working & when I will be going back to work.
My much repeated answer to the first question is, to summarise it: disillusionment, dissatisfaction, re-prioritization of my life.
Why disillusionment? I must admit that this started way back in the first years of my residency, when I was posted through the then-compulsory outpatient rotation (in my case, a polyclinic posting). The workload back then was just as bad (if not worse) than it is now. I remember my personal record of seeing 100 elderly patients with chronic illnesses on a Saturday morning from 8.30 am to 12.30 p.m.!!! It was literally come in, sit down, measure blood pressure/pulse, listen to heart/lungs, repeat prescription & out they went. Not quite the ideal situation for consults, as you can imagine.
Another eye-opener for me was the lack of scruples in our fellow man. My inherent (& perhaps naive) idealism in the goodness of human nature took a battering when I came across numerous malingerers (especially those NS guys -sorry, but this was based on my personal observations) hoping for MCs.
And in more recent times, I have grown increasingly disillusioned with this so-called "noble profession" as I see the dog-eat-dog world of corporate medicine, fighting to get contracts with companies, with undercutting and fancy packages (with sometimes dubious value) geared to attract HR managers. Doctors have become assembly-line workers, churning out patients from their consultation rooms. The higher the number of patients they see, the better it is for the practice since more consults = more $$$. I know that this is not reflective of all doctors, & that my skepticism & jadedness is a result of my personal experiences, but I am sure there are many fellow physicians out there who feel the same way.
And then there are the patients. Period. I am sure angrydoc's blog will give you many examples of doctor's dealings with patients which can be rather, ahem, challenging :). I have also recounted some of these experiences in some of my previous entries.
As for the 2nd question, the answer is simply: I don't know. I have yet to feel the urge or the calling to resume clinical practice. Whether or not I will ever feel it again, I don't know...I may still go back to practising part-time or as a locum, just to keep the neurons firing, but not just yet...let me take a break first.