Read my career planning for doctors's blog
The pull of the clinical career - the worthwhile nature of the work combined with the status and security and demonstrable evidence of ones "stickability and brain power" can all combine to make it almost like a drug. One that we can easily get dependent upon.
However laudable and rewarding being a clinician is - at the end of the day is it not "you" . You are not "a doctor". You work as a doctor. Your income comes from your role caring for the health of others. Studying and practicing medicine may be a vocation but it is also merely a vehicle - one in which you have chosen to travel through life.
I always recoil very slightly when I hear school children say they want to "be" a ......
Whether that is a fireman or a train driver, an astronaut or a doctor.
You don't "be" a career. You do, work in, study, earn from a career. You "be" who you are. A career is not who you are and does not have to be your identity. In fact having worked in the field of medical careers now for 26 years I am pretty sure that it is NOT healthy to have a self image that is totally embroiled within ones work and that it is perfectly possible to be very dedicated to ones work without it becoming who one is or taking over ones identity.
There are all sorts of psychological overlays and interactions going on if one over identifies with the activity one does to bring in income. A big one is - if you find that the workstyle or role no longer suits you for any reason - because you have a young family, your health has changed or the job has changed - then it can be extraordinarily difficult to even begin to think about an alternative career. Trying to give effective career guidance or coaching to someone who is in some ways addicted to their self image being a certain way - is a very challenging and usually fruitless task.
Given that anyone can be placed in life changing situations through illness, injury and social change - it makes sense never to be "chained" to the self image and identity of ones work. Yet people do immerse so deeply in the self image of doctor that if and when the time comes to need to look at life and work differently - this can precipitate huge anxiety and deep depression. This is not just true for medics I am sure - but it is quite common amongst medics. I can even confess to having had a touch of it myself a few decades ago.
I am not saying that every medical person wanting to diversify their career a little ends up unable to do so because of their medical self image. For some people however - the merest thought or hint that they might need or want to do something different sets of a level of denial and resistance that can completely sabotage any normal career exploration and catapault them into years of procrastination.
Thus a person's level of "weldedness" to their career and how much of "them" it has either consumed or swamped, hidden or replaced - is for some people a major element of the work we need to do with them before career options can be unearthed and pursued.