Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Called to Medicine: Physicians’ Experiences of Career Calling

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Called to Medicine: Physicians’ Experiences of Career Calling

Article excerpt

Career calling has been defined as an approach to work that is inspired by an external summons and provides a means through which one derives meaning and fulfills prosocial motives (Dik & Duffy, 2009). Research shows that a large percentage of college students and working adults experience a career calling (Duffy & Dik, 2013). More specifically, students planning to obtain more advanced degrees and working adults with higher degrees are more likely to feel called to a particular career (Duffy & Sedlacek, 2010; Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997). Espousing a calling has been found to correlate with a myriad of indicators of work and general well-being, including work zest, work and life satisfaction, work and life meaning, and commitment to one's career and organization (Duffy & Dik, 2013).

Considering the prevalence of calling across working adults and the positive relation between career calling and factors of well-being, researchers have begun to explore how career calling is experienced by and affects specific populations. For instance, qualitative studies have examined calling in samples of psychologists (Duffy, Foley, et al., 2012), zookeepers (Bunderson & Thompson, 2009), and working mothers (Sellers, Thomas, Batts, & Ostman, 2005). However, no known qualitative studies have explored career calling specifically among physicians. This is surprising considering that a calling is likely to be prevalent among physicians, and in light of research that showed that a calling is more common for those with advanced degrees and is salient specifically within the medical field, at least among medical students (Borges, Manuel, & Duffy, 2013).

Answering previous researchers' appeals to investigate how calling applies to various professions (Duffy, Foley et al., 2012) and the medical field (Westerman, 2014), we believe that physicians' experience of career calling merits particular investigation. At a time when physicians are greatly needed in the workforce, especially in primary care (Spinelli, 2015), physicians experience high stress and burnout, decreased job satisfaction, more quality of life (i.e., work-life balance) concerns, and more feelings of being scrutinized and powerless than at previous times within the health care system (Cohen, 2002; Goebring, Gallachi, Künzi, & Bovier, 2005; Johansson & Hamberg, 2007; Shanafelt et al., 2014). Research is needed to clarify their career experiences, identify ways to buffer these effects, and indicate how career counselors might support developing and practicing physicians.

Theorists propose that a calling can be of particular import to those in highly challenging jobs (Dik & Duffy, 2009). Research specific to the medical field shows that among medical students calling relates to heightened work and personal well-being (Duffy, Manuel, Borges, & Bott, 2011), and among physicians calling is aligned with greater resilience (Yoon, Rasinski, & Curlin, 2011). However, quantitative research to date has recognized only a few wellness factors associated with a calling to medicine, and only two variables (vocational maturity and life meaning) that might predict the development of that calling (Duffy et al., 2011). Qualitative research is needed to explore not only the extent to which a calling relates to physicians' well-being on and off the job, but also the context in which a calling develops. Moreover, Duffy et al. (2011) found calling to decrease from the 1st year to 3rd year of medical school, highlighting how one's sense of a calling can change over time. If a calling is related to physicians' work and general well-being, then qualitative inquiry is needed to identify how physicians might sustain their calling and expect it to develop over time.

To date, we know of no qualitative studies that have explored the breadth of a calling's impact on physicians' wellness. This seems necessary to inform calling-inclusive counseling for medical students and physicians. …

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