What Do Employed Physicians Have to Do to Get Ahead?

Leigh Page


November 18, 2015

In This Article

Time to Step Up to the Plate

In order to move ahead with your career, "they say you need to be available, affable, and able," Dr Buckley says. She remembers that when she was a member of the American Medical Association Resident and Fellow Section, she didn't follow that advice. Burdened with the long hours of a surgery resident, she was checking her emails only every 3 or 4 days. "I missed several important email exchanges and was perceived as uninterested," she says. Her work for the group stalled.

Now she makes a point of being available for projects. In her current position at Anne Arundel, she and other physicians noticed that a lot of patients with gastrointestinal bleeding were getting lost in the system and not always getting the care they needed. The physicians got together and put together a protocol to deal with these patients. "I was the only one taking notes, and so I was nominated to write a draft protocol," she says. She then became the go-to person on gastrointestinal bleeding.

Dr Buckley has also learned to take advantage of fleeting opportunities. Shortly after she joined an acute care group at Anne Arundel, the hospital was looking for a doctor to run the group. "They wanted someone who was dual-boarded in surgery and surgical critical care," she says. She is boarded only in surgery but asked to apply anyway. "I said, 'Look, I think I can do this.'" She got the job.

For Dr Buckley, being available at Anne Arundel and MedChi means that she has to carefully arrange her personal life. She is married with three small children, but she has a nanny and can do a lot of her writing work at night, when the kids are asleep. All of the family's meals are ordered out, a service cuts her grass, and she lives 1 minute away from the hospital. "It's all about having a village," she says. When she gets called away on MedChi business, her coworkers have agreed to swap work with her.

You Might Have to Make a Hard Decision

So far, Dr Buckley says, administration has been "just a side job" in her career. At her small hospital, there's no stipend for being chief of the general surgery division. "Making extra money only comes when you become a full-time administrator," she says. "I regard this as an educational phase."

She says she'll soon have to decide whether she wants to become a full-time administrator. Many hospitals, she says, won't allow full-time administrators to continue clinical care, and she is not sure she wants to give that up. This seems to be a bigger problem for surgeons, who must perform a minimum number of surgeries to stay proficient. Administrators who are primary care physicians are often allowed to spend half a day a week or so seeing patients.

Dr Jahn doesn't see patients anymore, but he still wants to keep his ties with clinical medicine. His board certification is expiring soon, and he plans to take his boards again. As an administrator, "being board-certified is important for your credibility," he says.

Dr Hanak says physicians starting on an administrative track need to focus their interests on what they plan to do. Family physicians who want to be a department chair, for example, would focus early in their career on matters in family medicine, but a family physician who wants a wider role would have to keep up with other specialties, he says.

Not every doctor would like being an administrator, Dr Jahn says. He works long hours—perhaps longer than most administrators. He's in the office from 8 AM to 6 PM. Then he goes home and spends time with his family for 3 hours and works at home from 9 PM to midnight, mostly answering emails. He gets 150-200 emails a day. He also has to travel, but "I'm OK with that," he says. He drives to the Baptist Health hospitals and clinics around Kentucky—racking up 45,000 miles in less than 2 years—and he flies about two to three times a month.


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