(Post by LINDA POURMASSINA, MD)
A recent Harvard Business Review article entitled “Career Plans Are Dangerous” suggests that the where-do-you-see-yourself-in-five-years question is essentially irrelevant in the modern world.
“…increasingly, the world is not this predictable. And it is in settings of high uncertainty where traditional career planning is both a waste of time and potentially dangerous. A career plan can lead you into a false sense of confidence, where you fail to see opportunities as they arise and miss taking smart steps you otherwise hadn’t planned for.”
The authors assert that this does not apply to certain professions, like nursing. Well, yes and no. The answer to where one sees oneself in 5 years is partially dependent on what the field looks like by that time, and the changes in medicine in the past decade have approached top-speed, and this not even accounting for any advances in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, or screening technology. If one looks simply at the changes in one-to-one provision of healthcare and the doctor-patient interaction (including EMR adoption, shorter appointments, patient portals, concept of e-patients, generational changes in expectations, creation of midlevel providers, rise in urgent care facilities, and healthcare social media), one realizes – like the old Oldsmobile commercials – that this is not your father’s medical system anymore.
There is a long lead-in period to becoming a doctor. If you decide at 18 (when one is expected to somehow definitively know what career will make one happy until retirement) to be a doctor, you still have at least 11 years before you practice independently in your field. Perspective: The students who are entering college this year determined to be a doctor will complete residency training in 2023 or later. Where will you be in 2023?
My hope is that future generations of doctors have or create opportunities to think outside of the box as they are training. The end point is not the medical degree. Regardless of all the time and money put into it, the degree might even be the beginning… because everything can change by the time these students get out.
Dr. Linda Pourmassina, Seattle, Washington
Linda practices at The Polyclinic in Seattle and is also on Facebook and Twitter. Her blog “Pulsus” is written from an Internal Medicine physician’s perspective, for physicians and nonphysicians alike, with reflections on a variety of topics, with focus on the social and cultural aspects of medicine.