When I was in my second year of med school, I had kind of a sobering moment:
One of my classmates had a boyfriend who had recently graduated from residency in medicine and had a job in a private practice. Back then, that seemed like the bright light at the end of a long tunnel: someday I would finish med school, finish residency, and then the torture would be over!
Except my friend was complaining about how her boyfriend was working harder than he ever had before. As the newest person in the practice, he took call every holiday and was at the office late every night. She then went on to tell me that this was "typical" of first attending jobs.
I wanted to throw up. So not only did I now have to get through med school and get through residency, I now had to put in my dues in my first attending job for god knows how long? When the hell did it ever end?
When I was doing inpatient rotations in residency, I noticed that my attendings never left work before I did, and actually, were often there later than I was (except on call). I started to have a bad feeling that the bright light at the end of the tunnel was all a myth, and that by entering medicine, I had resigned myself to working hard for the rest of my life.
I do think that, in general, attending physicians work very hard. I know there's going to be some dermatologist who comments something like, "Hey, I work only two afternoons a week, I love my job, and I make half a million dollars a year!" And that's awesome for you, really, you bitch. But I think even physicians like myself, who work part-time and have fewer hours, work pretty hard while at work. And physicians who work full time in private practice generally work their asses off.
The bright light is not entirely a myth. At least as an attending, you earn more money and get to do something closer to the job you want to do. But then again, how many people end up with their dream job right out of training, especially in this economy? I think it's to be expected that you'll need to spend a few years putting in your dues. I think it's a myth to think that you just need to get through seven years of training and then you'll be on easy street. After all, there's a reason Physician ranked only 83 on CareerCast's list of the top 200 jobs of 2011 (I seriously thought we were going to be after the guy who cleans the urinals or something).
I guess my point is that if you think of medical training as something horrible you need to get through before you end up with some cushy, high paying job, maybe you should rethink medicine. I don't think it's a good idea to postpone your life until "the hard stuff" is over, because it might not be over as soon as you think. Or ever.
But as usual, I welcome dissenting opinions. Do you work your ass off as attending? Or did you get a cushy, high paying job straight out of residency?