Make a gracious exit
It may be a great relief to head toward the door to escape an uncomfortable job, but making a smooth exit can sometimes prove challenging.
Strohmeyer intended to keep her departure entirely professional, so she was careful to honor the terms of her contract, including giving appropriate notice. She also took care to inform the surgery scheduler to book no new surgical patients within the month prior to her last day since she would not be available to provide follow- up care. When her boss learned that Strohmeyer would not be performing surgeries a month prior to leaving, she moved Strohmeyer’s last day up by two weeks and had the office manager break the news. In addition, her boss refused to honor the contract that provided for both parties to split the cost of Strohmeyer’s tail insurance. The practice owner explained her actions by saying, “I’ve already spent enough on you.”
Rather than press the issue, Strohmeyer paid the entire insurance premium. Though the events surrounding her departure proved costly, they only confirmed for Strohmeyer that leaving was the right thing to do.
When Wicksmith and her two colleagues found new positions, they were only about halfway into their three-year contracts. A major concern for Wicksmith was whether she would be required to return part of her sign-on bonus. After several negotiation meetings, which were heated at times, the new administration agreed to let all three physicians out of their contracts.
Getting out of the wrong job does not guarantee the next job is going to be perfect. Wicksmith’s next position was in an internal medicine practice with a patient load that was “bursting at the seams” and offered future potential partnership. Once she was on board, however, she discovered the future was not quite as bright as it first appeared. “I
was once again naive,” Wicksmith says. Over the next couple of years, she became aware of certain signs of fiscal irresponsibility and the management style was much like a dictatorship. After two years, as Wicksmith was about to go on maternity leave, the personal life of the owner began to fall apart. The practice soon followed suit. Though she was planning to return to work after maternity leave, there was nothing to return to. In 2008, she established her own practice focused on allopathic medicine, integrating nutritional and lifestyle medicine and emphasizing healthy living. At this point, her practice is nearly full.
When Strohmeyer accepted her next job, she was hopeful. “It was a job that I thought would eventually lead to partnership,” she says. However, the position turned out to be
even worse than her prior experience. Despite having a contract, the owner’s management style included changing rules and policies on a whim. After three years, Strohmeyer decided to do something different and struck out on her own. For the past two and a half years, she has since been working as an independent contractor. She currently works for two healthcare facilities and is paid based on the fees she collects. She pays for her own health and malpractice insurance and enjoys the freedom of operating as her own boss.
Wicksmith looks back on those early jobs without regret. “I learned a lot through those experiences. I learned business savvy.” She adds mastering different leadership and
negotiating styles, an introduction to business practices, and a better awareness of the way she wanted to practice medicine as some of the lessons learned along the road. “I also learned about my own character faults and I grew personally and spiritually,” she says. “I’ve had a multitude of experiences that prepared me to go and hang out my shingle.”
Leaving an uncomfortable position relatively soon after taking it is certainly not career suicide. A career is never over because of such an event, says Blair. “There are actually no bad decisions. There are decisions that might be less well advised,” she says, but a bad experience is often the greatest learning experience for a career. “One can always take from an experience that didn’t work out as one had planned and make it a true benefit,” says Blair.
Susan Sarver is a registered nurse and a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her articles and essays have appeared in a variety of anthologies and national publications.