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Physician Assistant on vacation

Just a Human.

Hi, I'm Karen

Nobody should have to choose between having a love of medicine & living a full life. I refuse to accept this as the standard expectation that has become the norm.


Karen Calcano, Physician Assistant  at the Hospital

a Human in Medicine

Hi, I'm Karen

Meet the face behind the posts.


As a surgical physician assistant by trade, there came a point in my 15-year career when I realized that in order to have the quality of life I wanted, I needed to figure out a way to have a career I love yet have the space and energy left to dedicate to myself, loved ones and my bucket list.

Burned out & disappointed by having no life because I was always working, five years into my career I set out to become a unicorn.


You know, that medical professional that has a fulfilling, challenging & rewarding career yet somehow also have the time & bandwidth to travel the world, pour into my relationship with my husband, explore creative endeavors & one day have the option to become a parent who can give unrestricted presence to my kids as needed.

It was this mission that drove me to look at my skills & figure out a way to leverage them in a way that took me away from the hold of my hospital employer that offered little freedom for me to pursue my deepest desires.


So I started a first assisting company, that gave me time, freedom, and more income than I could ever make as an employee, but it still meant that I had to work with insurance companies & hospitals and play by their rules, which many times screws everyone but them.

Playing that game with insurance companies, hospital administrators, contract lawyers, and negotiators at the highest level, I began to see an upward trend in my stress levels, frustration, and feeling trapped into playing by unfair rules they set.


Fighting constant battles of getting paid for work I had already done, all the while running myself ragged operating all over town to make up the difference, left me feeling unfulfilled and if I'm honest, sad about the state of healthcare & what it was doing to caring clinicians & patients everywhere.

The pandemic made the cracks even deeper.


Eventually, the chronic stress got the best of me and I became physically ill and had to step away.


That's when I realized that I did not want that to be my life anymore.

I cleaned up our finances and put us on a plan for both of us to take ample time off to recover from burnout if we wanted to.

In 2021 my husband and I both worked less than 6 months each, without any additional income.

We bought 2 cars in cash & put a plan in place to pay my 91K student loans in < 2 yrs.

We optimized our retirement strategy & accounts so that we can become retired or work optional in the next 10 years or less. 

I clarified our bucket lists & made concrete plans to achieve them one by one.

In 2021 we took 2 bucket list vacations, one to hike in the mountains of North Carolina and one to Europe.

I shifted the way I engage with my work & rediscovered my love for my career by doing it at a pace that allows me to enjoy what I do again.

Now I work in surgery per diem on my terms, with options to go back to full time if I want to.

I worked on rewiring my self-sacrificial identity ingrained in me from my medical training by building boundaries & habits that prevent me from staying on empty for too long.

Now I have a fail-safe against professional burnout.

More than anything I can be creative again & explore hobbies and interests purely for pleasure.

Feeling more rested and inspired I began sharing my journey away from feeling trapped working in healthcare 

& began sharing it on the  Scalpel & Heart Blog.

Since I saw few resources to help me find my way back to myself and reigniting the joy I once felt in getting called upon to practice medicine I wanted a place where anyone feeling the same could come to get guidance, community &  work through some of the hard stuff that comes up when losing your identity while working in medicine.

I'm so proud to say that through the blog, healthcare career coaching & my online programs I have helped hundreds of other healthcare professionals & students learn how to successfully navigate this broken & abusive system we work in order to clarify & create tangible plans to bring to life the highest vision of their lives within and beyond their medical careers.

Helping people create step-by-step plans to achieve their vision is what really lights me up inside.

I focus on optimizing your mental health, finances and creating simple habits that create lasting balance working in healthcare & beyond.


As a person who knows firsthand what it feels like to feel completely lost and with no one to turn to when life in medicine gets real, like-


Hello, student loan repayment 🖐

hello, pandemic🖐

Hello, moral injury & compassion fatigue🖐

Hello, broken healthcare system ( special s/o to the CDC)🖐

*Oh and not to forget a little something special to just us gals-

Hello biological clock, 🖐, my job still doesn’t understand you.

I intentionally run counter-culture to the “highlights only reel” that pervades social media these days. 


I believe that the willingness to be authentic, honest &  vulnerable is a super-power.

I speak candidly about my own struggles, wins, and losses because

my goal is to guide, protect and support you to reach the highest vision of your life without having to make all the mistakes I had to make so you can get there faster.


Life in Medicine today can be amazing but also crushing & an all-consuming-hot mess, that leaves you feeling like you have lost sight of yourself.


I’m here to remind us both that our true worth is who we are, not just what we do, and that it is possible to create more freedom, time, and space to have rest, play, and meaningful work you enjoy.

Please enjoy all of my offerings and services as you find your way back to yourself & your spark, because I created them with you in mind.


To us getting really good at making a true living, not just a dying. 🥂


all my love,


Image by Maddi Bazzocco

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© 2022 Karen Calcano 

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