Thursday, August 22, 2013

Guest post: No fun

A few years ago, my husband and I got together with a man and his wife that we had known as young adults.  This man is now a prominent figure in our community, and is well known by most of the people in our small town.  After an evening with this couple, my husband remarked, "It was nice to see them, but it's almost like he can't relax - like he's always on.  He's just not fun anymore."

Fast forward to the last few weeks.  A dear friend of mine came thousands of miles to be "back home" for the summer.  We had several opportunities to go out to eat, take the kids swimming, etc.  As we talked, I found myself noticing something -

I'm just not fun anymore.

Before mentioning a tidbit of interest I would have to think - is this person a patient?  Would I have even known this information outside of the practice of medicine?  When I'm in public, I feel that I am always "on."  When I'm at the store I might be greeted by the dad of a baby I just delivered, or be questioned about a new medicine, or be updated on a cough.  I know, though, that this is to be expected, especially as I take care of many people that I've known since before I started medical school.

In a community this size, being a doctor is like being a minor celebrity.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that hundreds of people know which day I have off, or where I went for vacation this summer and when.  Often it seems that just when I am starting to relax or spend time with my family, I will hear the call, "DoctorGrace!"  I find I can't be anything less than pleasant and professional when I'm "on duty," and I feel that I'm on duty nearly all the time that I'm physically present here.

Now, I realize that I signed up for this;  I know that this is a tremendous privilege, this look into the lives of others.  I honestly love my career, and there is no other life that I would have chosen.  I had another career before medicine and I really feel that I walked into this with my eyes open - as much as is possible, anyway.

I knew that medicine would demand my time and energy.  I knew that I would sacrifice time for my family and myself.  I just didn't realize until now that my spontaneity and sense of fun would be a casualty as well.

DoctorGrace is a family practice doc in the Midwest practicing full-spectrum family medicine.


  1. I am sorry to hear like you feel like you're "no fun" but it is GREAT to see a full spectrum family medicine physician on this board! I am planning on pursuing family medicine and want to do full spectrum in a small community, so it is VERY refreshing to hear that you are happy with your choice =) You made this girl's day!

  2. I really enjoyed this, DoctorGrace! I flagged it over on Scope:

  3. I think its sad that you feel you have to hide from your patients! It would be bothersome to be stopped during every trip to the grocery store for medical advice, but I think the days when patients expect their doctors to not have lives (ie screaming and/or dirty-faced children or a date night away) are over. Maybe try a polite and short "hello!" before returning to whatever you are doing so as to indicate office hours are over for the day? Patients should not expect you to dole out medical advice when you are clearly with your family.

    1. I don't think it's "sad," just realistic. This person is probably looking for real friends that she can confide in, not just acquaintances that she can engage in meaningless one-sided interactions with. True friendship just isn't possible if the potential friend is a potential patient also.

  4. I don't see her saying she has to hide from her patients - I am in the same position - small town, practicing full scope family practice. It's just that you do have to think twice before you speak or act - it's a bit like being in a fishbowl at times. Right now during my third pregnancy, it's like the whole town is watching :) I find that fun and spontaneity come when I am out of town with old friends!

    One of the things I never figured on in small town is how hard it would be to make true friends and know who I could truly be myself with and not worry about being the town doc. You don't hide and really, I don't mind being available to my patients. Now, I do set limits and if asked too much or specifics, I always reply for them to call the office, etc. It's very important to keep some boundaries, but it's also important in a small town for those patients to feel you are there for them. It's one of the joys and also burdens of the small town doc.

    Nice to hear from another MiM in my position!

  5. Perhaps some degree of burnout can be there too. Beeing always there for the others, beeing always questioned about diseases and medical opinions can lead us somewhere we didn´t think we could go. I feel the same along the years, in family reunions or partys, we are always the one who must show a smile when asked about work. Yes, I do feel that too :(

    maria, lisbon, portugal, internist

  6. Thanks for all the comments! I apologize for the delay - just coming up to speed with my very own Google account! It's nice to know there are others out there with similar experiences.
    Clover - glad it's an encouragement to you, too!
    Michelle, I wasn't familiar with Scope - I'll have to check in on it periodically. Libby & Ines - right on! Totally agree.


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