What to Expect When Millennial Doctors in Training Become Doctors in Practice

NOVEMBER 14, 2016
Heidi Moawad, MD
Millennials, Residents, Doctors

Millennials are roughly defined as the generation currently aged between 15 and 30. Current medical students and residents, as well as incoming medical students, fall into the generation of millennials. This means that future doctors and the future of medicine will be directed by millennials, who have a different set of priorities and approach to medicine than physicians who are already well-established. Listed below are some of the characteristics of millennial doctors in training that will influence the practice of medicine.

Comfortable with Technology
Physicians in training are far more familiar with technology than any generation that preceded them. This means that technology will continue to proliferate in healthcare as millennials accept and advocate newer and faster systems to streamline medical records and make patient care more efficient.

Flexible Job Definition 
Millennials are not bound to demarcations that exclude them from doing things they want to do. This means that what a millennial doctor considers “doctor work” may not be as rigidly defined as his or her predecessors. For example, if a millennial doctor wants to travel to another country to provide medical care for a few months, or wants to work on a healthcare startup or want to write a book and then return to medicine, he or she will not see any reason that it can't happen.

Reject Racism, Sexism, and Discrimination in General
Millennial physicians tend to reject inequity and intolerance. A female millennial is unlikely to see any ceiling to her own ambitions, and if she encounters any biased limitations imposed by others, she will flatly reject them. Similarly, millennials are unlikely to tolerate perceived discrimination or bias against others based on gender, race, religion, or sexual identity, particularly if the discrimination is towards a member of a minority group.

Huge Loans 
The costs of a medical school education have gone up exponentially over the past 10 to 20 years. Medical students and recent graduates are in debt to a degree that is astounding to older physicians who believed that medical school tuition was already as high as it could get. This means that millennials are acutely aware of the need to earn an income that can adequately repay that debt. Young physicians strive to learn about medical reimbursement, to train in high yield specialties and to take on side gigs that help repay the debt.

Not Afraid of Change 
In general, throughout the whole globe, the past 20 years have been less about tradition than about change and progress. Millennials, who grew up constantly learning how to use new devices and gadgets, are not intimidated by learning new things. The idea of changing jobs, moving office locations, or getting a new electronic system are not unsettling, and are often welcome as millennials do not resent buckling down to spend the time discovering a new way of doing things.

Informal Concept of Doctors
While doctors of the past tended to be very formal and proper, a new generation of doctors and patients do not place physicians on a high pedestal. Physicians on popular television shows are often represented as very down to earth, while real-life patients have access to information on the Internet that easily allows “double-checking” everything the doctor says and does. This does not make young physicians uncomfortable, and in fact, they welcome a lack of formality in the patient care setting.

Work Life Balance
Millennial physicians value freedom and flexibly. Work life balance was once a term reserved for young working mothers. But now, everyone feels that work-life balance is a necessity, including fathers, people who are not parents, and very ambitious professionals who often consider hobbies and relaxation an essential part of life.

Ambitious
Don't let the work-life balance values of millennials lead you to believe that they are not ambitious. This is a generation that was raised in a world of seemingly impossible achievements. And millennials grew up in the generation of extreme youth sports and “pageant moms.” While some experts have pointed to the harms of such devoted parental attention and hardcore childhood competition, this is a generation that is familiar with dedication, hard work, and lofty goal setting. This leads millennials to aim high, while the youthful emphasis on extracurricular activities taught millennials how to aim high while maintaining work life balance.

Competitive and Collaborative 
The amazing developments of recent years have taught young people that winning is not necessarily a zero sum game. There is room for many at the top. For example, the Internet itself made social media possible, which made online marketing possible, which made many small businesses successful. One amazing development can lead to a number of winners. Young physicians know that there is more than one way to succeed and that the success of one ultimately feeds the success of many.

Feel Special 
Many critics point to increased parental attention and approval of each millennial child's unique “specialness” as a harmful thing that could set millennials up for disappointment in adult life. While this may, indeed, be true to some extent, adult millennials who have an appreciation for perseverance and hard work may approach lofty goals with a belief that everything is possible, pushing through obstacles that could easily discourage those who came from a more “realistic” generation.

Overall, it is likely that the atmosphere of medicine will change over the upcoming years to better suit newly minted doctors who have their own strengths to bring to the table.


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