Physicians Anonymous

Quietly quitting medicine

As I sit down to reflect on my decision to quit a toxic hospital workplace, I’m overwhelmed by a mix of emotions – relief, anger, and sadness. Leaving a career I had worked so hard for, after just three years as an attending physician, was not an easy choice. But the relentless toxicity in that environment left me with no other option. In this narrative, I’d like to share some real-life anecdotes and quote conversations that led me to make the decision to leave clinical medicine to save my life.

Becoming a specialist

The excitement of completing my residency and becoming an attending physician was a dream come true. I had spent years dedicated to my medical education and training, always driven by the desire to make a positive impact on patients’ lives. The late nights, the unprotected training hours (despite the “safeguards” in place), the promise of decent pay and more control of my working life were what kept me going.

However, the reality of my dream job quickly unraveled, revealing an excessive and unsafe clinical workload and a workplace culture that was anything but supportive.

Quiet quitting: the data

We were meant to have 6 full-time attendings. We never had more than 5 in 3 years, but the average was 3.5, and we all had to suck up the workload. This meant that, on average, we were working over 40% extra for free. We were always short of nurses and other colleagues, too. Few stayed around for very long once they realized how little the management cared. 

I lost track of how many colleagues left.

I should add that the hospital group was owned by a large corporation which made record profits and returns to shareholders over the last few years. But they were doing so at the expense of their staff.

I am not alone. A 2021 survey found that 69% of physicians rated themselves as disengaged. “Quiet quitting” has hit medicine like so many other fields since the Pandemic. Unsurprising given the pre-Pandemic burnout levels (42%), post-Pandemic levels (52%), the worsening physician shortage, and the increasing administrative load required of clinicians.

The unrelenting workload

It wasn’t long before I realized that the workload was unmanageable. I often found myself overwhelmed with commitments: outpatient appointments, urgent calls, crashes, consults. And overarching everything, administrative tasks on the electronic health record (EHR)

My supervisor’s response was emblematic of the problem. In one conversation, they said, “You just need to  manage your time better.”

So I tried. I really did. But it turns out I am only human and subject to the normal laws of physics. I cannot be in 5 places at once. I cannot even perform procedures and type. Call me old fashioned, but I try to listen to my patients and NOT type at the same time. 

I tried for 3 years. Nothing changed except for my stress hormone levels.

In reality, this only led to exhaustion and burnout.

So I tried. I really did. But it turns out I am only human and subject to the normal laws of physics. I cannot be in 5 places at once.

Work-life imbalance

A healthy work-life balance was something I had always cherished. I believed it was essential not only for my well-being but also for providing the best patient care. However, in my unhappy workplace, achieving this balance felt like a distant dream.

During a meeting, a senior colleague commented, “Work-life balance is a myth. If you’re not ready to put in the hours, you’re in the wrong profession.”

I was already putting in the hours, and more. My spouse never saw me. My kids too. My friends did not bother to invite me out any more. That statement made it abundantly clear that the organization had little regard for the personal lives of its physicians.

Patient care compromised

As a physician, patient care was always my top priority. However, in this toxic workplace, I witnessed instances where patient care was compromised due to the relentless pressure. I remember a conversation with a nurse who said, “The hospital administration doesn’t care about patients; they just want to meet their targets.” This stark realization was a bitter pill to swallow. 

Breaking point

The emotional toll of my hospital work became unbearable. It was as if empathy and compassion had no place in this environment. This emotional desensitization was particularly unsettling, as it contradicted my core values as a healthcare provider.

My breaking point came during a meeting where I raised concerns about the excessive workload and its impact on patient care. A senior (non-medical) administrator replied, “We’re here to make money, not to coddle young doctors who can’t handle the pressure.” That response was the final straw for me.

I recall vividly a conversation with a fellow physician whom I admired who advised, “You have to develop a thick skin to survive here.”

Later, after I quit, we crossed paths in the corridor. They said, “Well done. You made the right choice”.

A senior administrator said: We're here to make money, not to coddle young doctors who can't handle the pressure.


So, thank you, toxic workplace, for reminding me why I quit. You taught me the importance of self-care and boundaries. You showed me the stark contrast between a healthy, nurturing workplace and one that values only the bottom line. While I may have left that poisonous environment, I carry with me the invaluable lessons I learned.

In my new journey, I am committed to rekindling the passion that led me to become a physician in the first place.

I will prioritize the well-being of my colleagues and the quality of patient care.

I’ll remember those conversations, not with bitterness, but as a driving force to create a better, more empathetic, and supportive healthcare environment.

I have now pivoted into non-clinical medicine. There are SO many options out there for qualified doctors that pay well and have a LIFE-work-balance!


The decision to quit may have been one of the most challenging choices of my career, but it was also one of the most liberating. 

It has allowed me to rediscover my purpose as a physician and to work towards making healthcare a compassionate and patient-centered field once again.

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