In medicine— as in other areas of life— the next best thing seems just around the next corner, whether it’s the next best diagnostic test, surgical equipment, or electronic medical record. As a result, we can feel as though we are missing out on the next best opportunity when we stay too long in a particular job.
Comparing your medical career to former co-residents, medical school classmates, or a certain prolific physician on social media can stoke the fires of career self-doubt and even exacerbate feelings of burn-out. That’s because research indicates that job dissatisfaction is associated with an increase in both physician job turnover and physicians leaving the medical profession. Rather than succumb to the vicious cycle of low satisfaction, burnout, and stress, read on to find some tips on making the most of the job you have now while building your dream job of the future.
Use available resources to stay ahead
Often, we feel that the only way to prove our professional grit is by staying busy and producing (often via RVUs) the number of patient visits or surgeries performed. Doctors are notorious not only for reneging vacation days but also for missing out on educational opportunities in favor of spending long hours at work.
As the saying goes, “work smarter, not harder.” Taking advantage of yearly CME allowances to go to medical conferences or purchasing the latest up-to-date series to keep abreast of innovations in your field is critical for excellent patient care. Physicians can also think outside the box— CME monies can be used towards a range of educational opportunities, whether you choose to obtain certification in pain management or dive into business courses for physicians. Even if you’re not sure the educational activity is covered, it never hurts to ask!
Every year, physicians waste these opportunities, assuming that there just isn’t enough time. Instead, make a pact with your colleagues to support each other in attending medical conferences or band together to purchase a particular educational program for your group. Negotiate for these non-monetary benefits if your employer does not offer them by reminding your group or hospital that fostering your professional growth is not only good for your career but also for the bottom line.
Network, network, network!
Physicians have a robust network; we have to remember to maintain and use it! From former classmates, co-residents, and fellows, to colleagues and the more senior physicians that trained us, we have a diversity of individuals who can offer advice, caution, and support during our career trajectory.
Just as senior physicians can help provide guidance for career goals, mid-career physicians shouldn’t forget to pay it forward by reaching out to younger physicians seeking guidance. While physicians who have finished training may romanticize training as a period of unsurpassed professional comradery and intellectual growth, it’s crucial to remember that regardless of our current position, the opportunities for professional collaboration are easily available, if only we reach for them!
We can commit to regularly show up to the local ground rounds, join (and participate) in the Facebook group for our specialty, or reach out to our medical network for professional advice or support. Not only can we ask our network about a challenging medical case, but we can also reach out to discuss a professional impasse or foible. These offerings often lead to choruses of “me too” and great insight from a range of voices who have walked down the same professional road and emerged a little wiser.
These interactions build a supportive social network that can help buoy us through difficult career patches. Within this, not only do we gain personal benefit, but we can help uplift another physician who may be experiencing similar professional struggles.
Record your wins
We are our own best advocates. While great physicians are often a part of a great team, promoting our individual professional success does not have to take away from the team effort. By acknowledging our professional successes, we are aligning our work ethic with our professional results and providing permission for other physicians who may feel undervalued to do the same.
A simple way to advocate for yourself is by keeping detailed records of your professional accomplishments. Metrics such as on-time clinic appointments and OR cases, publications or positive patient reviews are useful indicators of your work ethic. Physicians should evaluate these metrics regularly as a form of self-evaluation while preemptively managing clinical inefficiencies or mediocre patient experiences. If possible, automate this information: compile online patient reviews or obtain monthly reimbursements from the billing department. Having these numbers at your fingertips provides the feedback you need to evaluate your professional output—and the data you need to show your professional accomplishments to your employer.
While it goes without saying, practicing gratitude is essential to enjoying our physician jobs— dream or otherwise. While your current position may not be perfect, as physicians we have the privilege to care for patients at their most vulnerable by offering the priceless gift of health. Our patients are often extremely grateful, and we should take immense pride in the work we do.
With this lens of gratitude, physicians can strive to tackle areas for professional improvement with a positive and energized attitude. We can frame our desire for a job change, not only through its improvement in our personal career but also by its impact on the care of our patients, the propulsion of medical knowledge, and ultimately to reveal the purpose of our life’s work.
While these goals may seem overly laudable when we are dealing with inefficiencies in EMR, microaggressions or bureaucracy, the vantage point of gratitude lessens the toils these daily annoyances put on our psyche. Keeping a patient’s heartfelt thank you card or a note from your younger self about your dreams for your medical career can be a helpful reminder of why you do what you do.
Supported physicians support medicine
Medicine is both a calling and a career. Physicians deserve to be supported while providing critical care to our patients. By finding ways to maximize satisfaction in our current jobs, we cultivate the energy to move our careers—and medicine— forward. Take stock of your own career to find what resources are already available to you to draw you closer to your dream job!