Ideas for Employed Physicians Dealing with Job Heartbreak

By Suneel Dhand, MD
April 16, 2019

Don’t think that you and the organization are intertwined or joined at the hip. The independence of working per diem sometimes can help.

These are tough times to be a practicing doctor. Wherever you work and whatever specialty you have, if you’ve been in practice for anything more than a few years, you’ve likely witnessed significant change to your everyday work environment.

Regulations and falling reimbursements have made it difficult to be anything other than a fully employed physician. This move away from independent physician practices and small business ownership, to employment with large corporations, has taken a toll. Any perceived job security has come with a significant trade off when it comes to ownership, autonomy and career satisfaction. It’s no surprise then, that burnout now tops 50 percent for all medical specialties — a number that’s climbing.

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Based on conversations with thousands of doctors all over America, we’ve decided it’s almost impossible to have long-term job satisfaction as an employed physician. Sooner or later, something will happen that makes you like your job less. That’s just the nature of modern life.

Here are three ways to negate this.

Don’t get too attached to any one institution. Unfortunately, when you know you are sailing on turbulent waters, you shouldn’t set yourself up to sink badly. What seemed like a great place to work can turn sour quickly if there’s a change of management, regulatory change or financial pressure from above. We’ve heard about it happening in even prestigious places. As a doctor, all you can really have faith in is your own skills. Certainly, give it your all while you are there, but don’t think that you and the organization are somehow intertwined or joined at the hip. You could be anywhere.

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Get credentialed in more than one place. Always get credentialed in as many places as possible. The more options you have to spread your skills, the more secure you’ll be. Be picky about where you take side gigs so that if something goes awry with one particular institution, you’ll have other options readily available.

Have a plan in place as early as possible. Whether it’s a change in leadership or the first subtle signals that your working life is going to take a nose dive, pick up on those red flags as early as possible. Almost every physician notes changes well in advance of when the final “breaking point” hits. Don’t be the “victim” when you don’t need to be or be stuck in a suboptimal situation.

Suneel Dhand, MD, is board-certified in internal medicine and is based in Massachusetts. He is co-founder of DocsDox, an online service that connects physicians with moonlighting and per diem opportunities.

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