I recently quit my job…and by job, I mean residency. As those in the field can attest, this isn’t something that happens often. Once you start, it’s expected that you’ll finish, regardless of how difficult things get, and no matter the sacrifice. Forums on the topic often advise residents considering the thought to “forget about it”, stating it’s not worth it after everything one goes through to get to this point.
I’ve gone through four years of undergraduate training, endured countless hours of studying for classes like Organic Chemistry and Physics, slaved away doing research in dark basement laboratories, endlessly stood on my feet while shadowing attending physicians like an imprinted baby duck, studied for and took the hours-long exam known as the MCAT, and not to mention the thousands of dollars spent flying around the country for medical school interviews.
Then, once in med school, I suffered through exam after exam, spent hours on end dissecting dead bodies, stood on my feet endlessly as we rounded on rotation after rotation, all the while playing “yes man (or woman)” to my seniors, studied for Steps 1 & 2, and again not to mention the thousands of dollars spent on flights around the country as I interviewed for residency. And for me, it goes back even further than med school or undergrad. I’ve always been academically-inclined, and as such I would regularly try to skip recess in elementary school in order to do my work, so I could get ahead. So after all this “getting ahead,” why did I finally decide to give it all up? The answer: my family.
Before applying to med school, I prayed a prayer that I had actually forgotten about along the way: that if God wanted me to go to medical school, He would make a way for my future family to be a priority. Throughout med school, He always did exactly that. Sometimes He did it by placing me with the right senior resident(s)/schedule that allowed me to leave the hospital most days at a decent time. He even did it by providing the time for me to get married during medical school (which is another story for another day!). This time, however, I felt that God was calling me to step out on faith and continue to make sure that priority was taken care of by reminding me of the prayer I prayed long ago. My husband and I have always been convicted about the importance of family and when our baby boy showed up, I knew I had to make a decision about what I always said I believed in. As a resident, days are long, with most work weeks fluctuating between 60-80 hours. Most days, our little one was sound asleep when I left for work, and I would get home with just enough time to quickly shower, feed him, and put him to sleep. I envisioned myself doing this for the next four years: missing his first words and first steps, missing his first time tasting solid foods and first Christmas, and I wasn’t okay with that. God blessed me with this special gift and I knew that putting him on the back burner while I selfishly pursued my career wasn’t an option. After all, there can and always will be more doctors, but there’s only one person who can be Micah’s mom.
Now of course, there are naysayers. One question I often get asked is, “After all you’ve gone through to get to this point, don’t you think it was a waste to walk away now?” To that question, I answer with the response of Dr. Kathryn Butler, a trauma surgeon who stepped away from her career to homeschool her children. In the blog post “From Medical Doctor to Stay-at-Home Mom,” she references the story of Mary Magdelene, who when annointing the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume, the question was asked “How could she waste such a precious gift?” Her reply? “When you serve God, you waste nothing.” I have my thoughts on why God blessed me with such an extensive education, and I believe in the future He will provide other ways for me to use it.
People also ask if I’ll ever return to medicine. Thankfully, I was provided the opportunity by my institution to return if later I feel so inclined, which is certainly an unusual thing for a residency program to do for someone who has resigned (which, by the way, was further confirmation that I was doing the right thing!). However, I don’t know what the future holds. Maybe I will return, maybe I won’t. But for right now, I know what I need to do. In the meantime, stay tuned and join us for the journey!