Medscape’s Physician Lifestyle & Happiness Report 2023: Contentment Amid Stress discovered what makes physicians tick at work and home. But with all of the ups and downs of being a physician, we wanted to know whether doctors would be pleased if their children followed in their professional footsteps. Or would they prefer their kids steer clear of wearing the white coat?
Medscape asked over 1600 physicians, 736 in the US, if they’d encourage or discourage their kids from practicing medicine. The US demographic breakdown was as follows: 62% were male; 38% were female; 46% were 65 or older; 25% were 55–64; 17% were 45–54; 9% were 35–44; and 3% were 25–34. Here’s what they said.
Of the physicians surveyed in the US, 53% have 1 or 2 children, and 37% have 3 or 4 children. In addition, physicians told Medscape that 34% of them already have children who are doctors or are in the process of becoming a doctor.
And why wouldn’t you encourage your kids to become doctors since healthcare was the second largest sector hit by the Great Resignation after food services as a result of the pandemic and there were already shortages of doctors? However, one 2022 Doximity poll found 60% of physicians said they would “probably” or “definitely” not want their kids to work in medicine. Heavy caseloads and long hours were their top reasons.
One physician polled said, “I would not recommend my path to others, especially children. I believe it is something you should really want, as it can take a heavy toll at times in work-life balance and empathetic exhaustion.”
When asked to what extent physicians would support or oppose their children becoming physicians, 49% said they’d support it, while 19% would oppose it, and 32% said they would neither support nor oppose their kids’ becoming doctors. One doctor said, “My 19-year-old is Pre-med. I neither encouraged nor discouraged him. I guess I am rare, but I enjoy the practice of medicine and think I have a great job.”
Gender Bias in Medicine?
Medscape wondered whether physicians’ support or opposition to their children becoming doctors was based on their child’s gender, but 90% of physicians surveyed said they feel the same way regardless of their children’s gender. Only 10% said that their support or opposition to their child becoming a doctor was based on gender.
Following in Your Footsteps
Physicians told Medscape why they’d want their kids to become doctors. The top reason was the satisfaction of helping patients (39%), followed by it’s being an interesting career (21%), satisfaction from helping society (16%), financial rewards (7%), prestige (5%), and the chance to work with smart, ambitious people (5%); 1% each said the top reason was the chance to work with their children someday and that the profession is changing for the better. Five percent cited “other” as the reason they’d want their kids to become doctors.
Don’t Follow in My Footsteps
Of the physicians surveyed, 32% opposed recommending their children become doctors because they feel that the profession is changing for the worse; 28% said it was because of work-life balance difficulties; 13% cited the emotional toll the profession takes; 8% said the compensation is too low for the workload; and 7% cited the abuse of power of administrators.
Three percent of doctors each said that the cost of medical school, the high risk of litigation, and “other” were why they wouldn’t want their children to be doctors, and 2% said because of a general lack of autonomy. One doctor cited that “along with all the reasons not to become an MD, I would add government intrusion.”
Another childless doctor said, “I doubt I would do Medicine myself in today’s over-bureaucratic environment. If I had children, I would suggest they look at other options.”
Regardless of the numerous reasons for supporting or opposing your kids from practicing medicine, Medscape notes strong feelings on both sides of the white coat.
Would you want your kids to become a doctor?
Jennifer Nelson is Features Editor, Reports at Medscape. Her work has also appeared at WebMD, Medical Economics, MedPage Today, as well as The Washington Post, AARP, US News & World Report, The Oprah Magazine, Women’s Health and others.
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