Monday, July 2, 2012

Work-Life Imbalance. I Just Had My First Vacation In Four Years.

It's hard to believe but I've just had my first extended vacation in four years. By extended I don't mean I took 80 days off to cruise around the world on the QE2. My grand vacation lasted all of ten days. But that is quite an extended leave of absence by my standards. Prior to this, I had to satisfy myself with simple holiday journeys, the longest one being a road trip to Texas over Thanksgiving a couple of years back.

How can this be, you might ask. Don't anesthesiologists enjoy the most luxuriant lifestyles and carefree schedules of any medical profession? The short answer would be no. You see, many anesthesiologists, like myself, are really small business owners. We run a shop where customers pay for our goods and services. We have a billing department that keeps track of my accounts receivable, equipment to maintain, and other mundane business practices, just like a shopkeeper. Therefore, like a sole proprietor of a small store, when I go on vacation, I turn off the lights, lock the doors, and my income suddenly drops to zero when I am no longer offering my services while I'm out.

However, unlike a small business owner, my practice is unlikely to get bigger, hire more employees, and expand. When small businesses get bigger, the owner can usually hire a staff to take care of the shop while he goes on vacation, while the store is still raking in money. That doesn't happen in medicine. I can't suddenly hire a bunch of anesthesia extenders like AA's or CRNA's to do the cases while I vaca to Paris and cruise down the Seine. I still have to be present while the procedures are being performed. I suppose that I could someday open up an ambulatory surgery center or pain center then hire people to work there. But then I'd be busy as an administrator when I'd rather be a practitioner.

I sometimes fantasize about being a doctor employee, you know the kind that clocks in from 7:00 to 3:00 and doesn't give a darn about expediting cases and operation room efficiency. I could work at an academic institution or a large hospital group where I'd be nothing more than a cog in a giant medical industrial wheel. Then I'd be guaranteed paid vacations and benefits. Sure the pay is less and you have to work with a bunch of doctors who are just showing up for their retirement pensions. Think VA hospitals. But perhaps when I am older and the kids have moved out, that wouldn't be such a bad option.

Oh, who am I kidding. I love my current job. Sure the last few years have been a little rough fiscally speaking. After all, we bought a new house a couple of years ago then spent months undergoing an extensive remodeling. I didn't have the time or the money to go on a long break. But this year, finally, I could exhale with relief as my finances edged back from the fiscal cliff. (For those who have remodeled your house, you know what I"m talking about) Thanks to my ginormous anesthesia income, this was made possible faster than any 99%er could fathom.

From now on I vow to improve my work-life balance. I will take care of myself and my family better in the coming years by not working for 48 months straight. Life is too short to worry about where the next intubation will come from. The children are growing up too fast. The months just seem to fly by and here we are another half a year is behind us. I'm already looking forward to my vacation next summer.

1 comment:

  1. The first job I worked in required everybody to take 7 weeks vacation (we were staffed to always have one person on vacation, two in the summer). A surgeon asked me, "How can you afford to take so much vacation?" I replied "How can you afford not to."