Why I Don’t Plan on Quitting Medicine Anytime Soon


why I don't plan on quitting medicine any time soonI feel fortunate to have been turned on to the idea of multiple streams of passive income early on in my career. It took a combination of struggling to find security at work, reading a few good books, and speaking to some doctors who had escaped the “rat race” to put me on this journey to financial freedom.

I now know the impact it can have on the enjoyment and longevity of one's medical career, and that's why I'm so passionate about sharing this concept with others.

However, when I start talking to people about my various business ventures, streams of income, and the financial freedom they can bring, one question always seems to pop up, “When are you going to quit being a doctor?” To which my response is always the same, “Never… I hope.”

Why Leave Medicine

We all know that, in many ways, being a physician is tougher today than ever before. With so many bureaucratic tasks like charting and paperwork required of us, increased hours of work with less pay, a decreasing lack of respect at work, lack of control and autonomy, increased regulations to abide by, etc., it’s no wonder that physician burnout is on the rise.

In fact, in a recent Medscape survey, 44% of physicians who responded (>15,000 physicians) admitted to feeling burned out. They defined burnout as: “long-term, unresolvable job stress that leads to exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed, cynical, detached from the job, and lacking a sense of personal accomplishment.” I'm sure that some of you can relate to this.

Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019

As a result, many physicians are leaving the workplace, and there are so many more who might leave if not for financial obligations. Burnout added on top of large student loan debt, mortgages, car payments, and kids' education costs… it all leads to the feeling of being trapped.

That makes me wonder – if finances truly weren’t an issue (for example, if they won the lottery), just how many physicians would continue to practice medicine?

My hope is that many of them would continue being physicians. Perhaps having that financial freedom could change the way they practice into something a lot more sustainable – work fewer hours, and/or spend more time with individual patients. This might rekindle some sort of lost passion for their field.

Some Stay, Some Leave

Some of my friends, like the White Coat Investor, have reached that point of financial independence but continue to work because they want to, albeit a reduced amount. Others, like Physician on Fire, expect to make a complete exit from medicine very soon.

Whatever anyone chooses though, I believe it’s not my place to judge. Everyone must figure out what works for them. After all, your job is important, but I believe it’s not the most important thing in life. (If you want to talk philosophical about the meaning of life, let's talk about it in our group, Passive Income Docs.)

Perhaps if you're in one of the specialties more prone to burnout, you're more likely to leave if given the choice.

Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019

However, even though I'm in a field that experiences a relatively higher chance of feeling burned out (Anesthesiology), I feel like I want to keep going. In spite of having that choice to leave medicine, I hope to never quit my job.

Here are some of the reasons why:

Working Still Makes Me Feel Good and Gives Me a Sense of Purpose

I actually enjoy what I do. I’m a fellowship-trained obstetric anesthesiologist. Yes, there aren't too many of us around, but it's a great field. Just ask our society!

I chose this particular field because, at the end of the day, nothing could match that feeling of satisfaction I received at the end of an OB shift. I get to help people through a very stressful time and in some way, I feel it's what I'm meant to do.

Plus, if there’s one place in a hospital where people actually want to be, it’s Labor & Delivery. It's a happy place and although it can be quite busy, the cupcakes, balloons, and happy hugs still rub off positively on me.

Lastly, call me a softie, but it still gets me when I see parents with their newborn babies. I loved it before having kids, but now having had my own, it's that much more meaningful.

It’s Challenging and Intellectually Stimulating

I enjoy the challenge that my job provides. I perform very technical procedures like epidurals and spinals, and I like to think I do it decently well. Then there’s the challenge of managing the patient through some difficult moments.

Ultimately, people need to be constantly challenged and stimulated to grow. I’ve heard that once people stop being challenged, they wither away. This is why retirement becomes such a struggle for a lot of people.

Of course, I do get that stimulation from certain other ventures, like this blog and the other businesses, but being able to work that while also helping people is immensely satisfying.

I Enjoy Teaching

I work with residents and fellows on a daily basis and there’s something special about the feeling of contributing to someone’s education and training. When I hear of one of our former residents or fellows doing well out there in the world, there’s a sense of pride that comes with knowing that I helped to train that person.

I Like the People I Work With

My colleagues are good people who work hard. I’ve made good friendships while working at my hospital, and though we don’t always hang out outside of work, I still feel comfortable calling them if I needed anything. Of course, I'd do the same for them.

I also get to interact with patients, other physicians, nurses, and staff on a daily basis, and it’s a very collegial atmosphere.

I Enjoy the Income

My work provides a steady income for the most part. The good part about getting paid for your time is that you know how much you will receive at the end of a shift. The bad part is that since most medical income is tied to time, you'd always be captive to your work if you didn't have any other income streams.

Again, thankfully I do have some other sources of income, but it's not always consistent at this point. The medical income is a nice buffer in case things don’t go so well with the businesses or my investments. That extra income is usually thrown into more investments, but it also allows me to take care of my family members that much easier. Oh, and I do enjoy traveling quite a bit and my day job makes it easier on the finances to do so.

What Could Drive Me to Quit

I know I painted quite a rosy picture of my current day job, but in all honesty, it's not always smooth. But I'm definitely a glass-half-full type of guy. I recognize no situation is perfect, but I'm very fortunate to have what I have. That isn't to say things couldn't change as I've seen it has for some of my friends. In fact, there are things which could drive me to quit prematurely. Some of those things are:

Loss of Flexibility

Well, the major thing that could make me quit is if I lost flexibility. If I didn't have the time in my week to pursue some of my other ventures or if I was forced to work 60-70 hours a week, then the decision to stay in medicine would be quite a bit more difficult.


I might also hang up my stethoscope if the threat of lawsuits was constant or real enough to make me think I could potentially lose everything.

Physical Limitations

My job is very technical so if I were physically unable to perform the tasks well I wouldn't be doing a service to anyone. A career-ending accident could happen, but that's also why I have good disability insurance.

Gradual Retirement

So even though I’ve reached financial independence from medicine, instead of retiring immediately, I’ve decided to gradually retire. That means that as my income increases from other ventures, I’ve decreased my time at work.

I’ve decided to take this step immediately because it's clear that work hours and burnout are directly correlated. If I decided to wait until I reached a certain amount of income or level of comfort before reducing my time, I feel I'm way more likely to hit that burnout wall. So I'm pushing myself to work less.

Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019

I’m dropping hours as I go and opting to spend more time with family and on other ventures.

I'm not saying this is the only solution to burnout. I don't pretend to have all the answers because the causes and solutions to burnout in medicine are multifactorial. I've just found what works for me.

But one thing’s for certain, I won’t be completely quitting medicine anytime soon.

If you reached financial freedom, would you quit practicing completely? Or would you gradually retire?



  1. I feel the same way.

    For me, a lot of my identity is wrapped up in being a doctor too. Some see that as sad. Like I have nothing other than work. I disagree. I worked hard to become a doctor and I’m proud of being in that noble profession. I like helping and serving others.

    Also, the benefits (health insurance) and inflation-adjusted income help round out my financial picture.

    Working part-time has been a great balance for me. I coined the term FINER. Financial Independence, Never-Ever Retire!

  2. It really means you chose a profession suited to you as evidenced that you would continue to work even if won the lottery.

    I do like a lot of aspects of radiology but I can’t really say that I would work in it when I finally realize that there is absolutely no chance of me running out of money living the lifestyle I want in retirement.

    The legal issues would obviously play a huge factor. Why continue working and risk it all, be it as unlikely as it may, for a lawsuit? The sobering fact is that almost every doctor will have a lawsuit against them at some point in their career. And it’s like Russian roulette. Take one shot and make it, but do you keep shooting?

    Decreasing time definitely makes burnout less for me but it does not make it magically go away. Too many other govt and insurance hoops to jump through and now our specialty boards are getting in on the act with cash grabs making us take weekly quizzes (in my case) when I had already passed a 10 year cognitive exam not due to expire till 2023

  3. I also spent considerable time in a mother baby, but as a pediatric hospitalist. It is a joyful and exciting place. So many smiles.

    For me, it was also a case study in burnout. The nursery I was in was huge and busy. We were expected to see 20 babies and their parents every day. I know some of you have talked to anxious parents? how about 35 of them….every day….

    The babies never stopped coming. The joy of being there quickly vanished in a see of bilirubins and PKUs. Not to mention teaching residents and students.

    I began to loathe going and couldn’t wait to leave for the next job (this was a few years ago now). It was exactly the kind of medicine that I never wanted to do. Fast paced and volume driven. It is not why I became a hospitalist. I’m a slow talker and enjoy a thinking my way through a day.

    If I could have done that same job but only had to see 7-10 babies in a day I think I would have stuck with it longer. The pace and volume is what drove me away from it. For those in primary care I can see how a schedule full of 15min time slots could ruin anyone’s day.

  4. Good article,

    The flexibility aspect of your job truly makes it sustainable for the long term, and I appreciate that you recognize that. I think it is not much of a coincidence that most financial independence blogger physicians are Anesthesiologists or ER. The shiftwork nature and absence of need for continuity of care for those careers make it easier to cut back. I find this the most challenging aspect for surgical subspecialist in a small group private practice. I can cut back hours, but I am still required to be constantly available to my patients and overhead expenses do not just stop. It is going to take a considerable effort once I become Financially independent to arrange more flexible schedule.

  5. I feel the same way, too. When I was burned out, I wanted out. Now that I have fixed the burnout issue, even though I could retire, I continue to work for largely the same reasons. Purpose, identity, and connection, as DocG says.

  6. For me, my work in medicine and my patients remind me every day the value of my life and my time. I love the honest, vulnerable, eye to eye space that my exam room or operating room allows me to connect to people. But I also appreciate more than ever how my life is finite and I want to experience as much as possible and maximize my potential for as long as I can. Nowadays and into the future, I think it will become more common to transition through several jobs or careers as the world continues to advance and technology changes the landscape. I know our culture and mindset thinks of the massive investment into medicine as one that locks docs into the career until the end of our lives but I think that will transition to as docs discover equally fulfilling ways they can change and serve the world. And I believe that’s not only a great change for the world but for future doctors as well.

  7. 35 yrs in cardiology was enough for me. After 20 months in retirement there is no way I would go back. I have not missed one second of it. I have enough to do in retirement with the real estate that I don’t get bored and it supplies plenty of income. My situation was adverse to going part time, but, I wasn’t interested in part time anyway. I wanted out altogether and am glad I’m out.

  8. So many smart folks who have found great personal reasons to keep practicing medicine in the face of a changing, and might I say deteriorating system. I seriously thought of retiring from family medicine after 35 years building a high functioning primary care practice with quality as its focus. Could have retired too but for a lot of the reasons mentioned in this article and by my peers above I chose not too. Let me add 1 more to the list-after 35 years of patient care I am good at what I do. My patients greatly benefit from the expertise I’ve acquired over those years and If I had chosen to just remove myself from my patients lives that, from an ethical perspective, would be wrong based on my beliefs. I changed my practice. I reduced my work hours. I changed my attitudes about my work day and focused on pride, quality and enjoyment in my work. I found it easier to ask patients who I really didn’t enjoy seeing because they really didn’t care about the quality of their care but rather focused on convenience to go elsewhere. My patient volumes have gone down some but the reward has been a marked increase in enjoyment of what I do and a renewed focus on quality and the future.

  9. I’ve always kept my identity at arm’s length from being a doctor. In training it didn’t take long to see people with identity/profession pathologically entwined and it didn’t end well for them. I’ve also been a strong advocate of not relying on income from medicine for solvency. It took a few years but I quickly reached a point where other sources of income eclipsed medical income which allowed me to keep the profession in perspective. So many docs are good enough docs but crippled outside of their field. They are trapped, and some of them know it. When they aren’t strutting around in a white coat they are lost. Really sad. What pushed me out was the liability risk. At the time $2 million was the top malpractice coverage available at any price. I’ve not been sued but it is easy to find examples of docs being pulled sideways into cases where they were tangentially involved. Big settlements are rare, but $2 million barely buys lunch for top lawyers. In many states, even if someone is 1% liable but the principles don’t have money, those with cash have to pay up no matter how little they were involved. I did find a job with FTCA so I can never be personally liable. The work is nice but there is nothing about it that I have to have to feel valid. I am not trapped or entwined. The money is OK but I don’t pay any attention to it and certainly don’t need it. Just more taxes to pay. My advice is to keep medicine in perspective. It is a job at the end of a very long and expensive education. The hours can be stupid long, the pay is so so at best for the effort it takes and one twist of liability can scrub you down to bedrock. It is gratifying to help people but what personal cost is that worth? Still we need doctors, and preferably bright capable people willing to become doctors, but it is hard to justify without a lot of rationalization. And nothing will meaningfully change as long as they keep filling medical school classes.

  10. I still enjoy what I do and it took many, painful years (8) after medical school to become a plastic surgeon. I have no plans on EVER retiring even though I know I will probably have to one day unless I drop dead in the operating room. I told the OR nurses that I’m NEVER leaving! They’ll have to drag me out. On the other hand, many of my colleagues are not in a happy place. As Pamela Wible, MD says, doctors are not “burned out”, they are victims of constant bullying. Have you ever seen or been a kid who was bullied over an extended period of time? It creates psychological and physical symptoms, none of them positive. Many with whom I have spoken would retire right now, but they can’t. They are too young and don’t have enough money saved to do so. They feel trapped doing something they no longer want to do. That sucks.

  11. Your Bar Graph comparing burnout/depression as a function of chosen specialty triggered some puzzlement. I’m a semi-retired nephrologist who thought he understood why nephrology had become the second least popular internal medicine subspecialty (based on what percentage of training programs fill with US medical school graduates) The only field LESS desirable based on that razor recently has been geriatrics. I must say that I’m much happier working “less,” because now I’m not pressed from 3 other directions (office, hospital, and OTHER dialysis centers) every time I’m making rounds at a dialysis facility, yet the work I used to do there in 90 minutes now takes 3 hours. I’m learning more about my patients than just their phosphate or PTH measurements, or why they still don’t reach their target weights; I have time to discuss things with them. Of course, this comes at a time when my specialty may change dramatically in the next few years (assuming the disruptive change that may be ushered in by the implantable artificial kidney really comes to pass).

    Does it make sense to others that a specialty that seems so emotionally rewarding when one can practice it at a non-breakneck pace can bring personal satisfaction to such a large majority of its practitioners , yet be so unpopular among physicians preparing to choose their own career paths?

  12. My passive income is 50-70% of my working income, but my decision to retire came after 40 yrs in the EM
    trenches. EM with its 24/7 schedule is one aspect of the problem but the productivity hit of 20%+ with the
    EMR was the final nail. No longer was going to a small (sub 10k annual visits) ED 1-2x/week for a 24-hour shift feasible as a less intensive posting. The EMR changed even these small facilities into grinders where, in the paper era, they were attractive compared to my 45k annual visit nose to the grindstone job of the last 15 yrs of my working career. Should have retired sooner….

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