Thursday, August 13, 2015

MiM Mail: Not excited by the OR anymore

Hello all,

I was a huge fan of this forum as a woman in medicine, and now I am a brand new mother to a sweet 1 month old baby girl.

I have completed the 4th year of a plastic surgery residency at a competitive and busy program, and am currently taking a research year to have more time with my daughter. My husband is in medicine as well.

I am writing because when I decided to go into surgery (albeit plastics, which is a little bit less demanding), I had not even met my husband and did not think I wanted kids. Obviously my priorities have changed.

Since becoming pregnant, I have been strongly considering a change in specialties or leaving medicine altogether. My new priority is being a mom, being present, and being focused on my daughter's upbringing. Plastic surgery demands long hours to build a practice, rigorous call, and exhausting surgeries that take a lot out of me by the end of the day.

I know switching would mean lengthening my training at this point since I only have 2 clinical years (and probably fellowship) after this research year. But I can't help but think this will be so much better for us in the long run. It makes me a little sad since I have invested so much in my surgical training already, but I don't know if I would be happy continuing on this track. I am not looking for an "easy specialty" since there is no such thing, just one that better fits my priorities. Otherwise, what other options are there outside of medicine?

I liked PM&R when I was a medical student and found it uplifting since you got to see patients' long term progress. I also liked emergency medicine for the immediate feedback and fast pace (the same thing that drew me to surgery initially). I think I need to bite the bullet and find something with more of a fixed schedule that allows me to focus on my family when I am at home, rather than being a slave to my pager. I am just not excited about the operating room anymore, especially given all of my life changes. I have never loved surgery the way some of my colleagues do, and this confirms it.

Any thoughts or advice would be so helpful.

Thank you!


  1. My advice would be not to make any major decisions about your career for at least another six months. You have just had a major change in your life, and you are likely extremely sleep deprived and hormonal, and likely also reeling from all your new responsibilities as a parent. It will all get more manageable with time.

    Even I thought that I wanted to stop working to be a full time mom when my daughter was a month old. Needless to say, that feeling did not last. Maybe that will happen to you, maybe it won't, but only time will tell and you don't want to make a huge decision about your career until some more time passes and you get a better handle on what makes you happiest now that you have a kid.

    1. Also, you might find this post useful. Good luck!

  2. Are there people in your field who have taken an unconventional approach to practicing Plastic Surgery (e.g. part-time or reduced hours)? While you're probably stuck with a defined schedule for the remainder of your clinical training, perhaps there's a way to achieve a balance that makes you happier once you're working.

  3. I completely agree with OMDG. My husband and I were both sleep deprived and irritable during my surgical intern year with a brand new baby, and we both attributed it to the demands of intern year rather than having a baby. I ended up switching, begrudgingly but under the impression that it would solve all our problems, into a non-surgical field that I had considered in medical school but that was not my real passion. I am now finishing up in that specialty, but not a day goes by that I don't think longingly of my original choice. I wish I had not made any major life decisions in that first year (not just first 6 months)! I would urge you to see how the year (or even more) goes before making any major decisions.

  4. You are only two years away. Finish up, gut it out, and look for easier ways to be employed (part time, employee, VA?) Your baby will be so proud of you for working and won't remember that you weren't around much for her first two years. I know it really hurts YOU to miss out on her babyhood...I feel the same...but you're so close, and when she grows up and doesn't need you, plastics will feel a lot more fulfilling.

  5. Completely agree with pp. give it some time. I desperately wanted to leave medicine so after my first was born. It took an entire year for that feeling to subside, and now I am so glad I stuck it out. i chose my specialty for a reason and although motherhood changed me a lot the core of who I am is the same. the changes in your brain and the hormones are so powerful after baby so I really would wait 6-12 months before deciding anything. I know that would extend your training even longer if you do switch, but this is not a good time to make life-changing decisions. Congrats on becoming a mama. It's the best!

  6. I echo the responses above. I had many of the same thoughts coming as a new surgery resident mom. But residency is exhausting and parenting is exhausting! Put the two together and it can make you crazy. But give it time. My daughter made residency better for me. I felt very different about it as a cheif resident than I did when I first came back. Give it a little time. You've worked hard to get to this point. Good luck and I'm happy to talk to you at any time about being a surgery resident and a mom!!

  7. Glad to hear all these women with more experience than I chime in with my thoughts - no major decisions! … Your feelings now are your feelings now. Totally fair. Feel them! … But don't act on them … yet!

  8. I agree with everything with what the others have said. Just chiming in with my own experience - my LO is a year old and I went back to work when he was 6 months old. Even though he was (and in many ways still is) not the easiest baby, I didn't find myself missing work at all! Maybe part of it was post partum depression, but now that I'm back to work I do relish the time that I'm there. It felt like a part of me had been lost during the hazy sleep deprived early days. It's too soon to decide!!


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