Life changes in general can be stressful—especially when the change involves getting a new job. Whether you’re fresh out of residency or just seeking an improved work/life balance, physicians face many challenges once they make the decision to explore new employment opportunities.
I personally have dealt with the stress related to changing jobs in the medical field. Many negative emotions can surface: uncertainty about the future, fear of making a wrong decision, disappointment, anxiety, and guilt over leaving your current practice, just to name a few.
Luckily, there are ways to help mitigate stress associated with the job search.
1. Start with clarity
A significant amount of job-search stress can be related to uncertainty and indecisiveness. Take time before beginning the job search to consider what would constitute your ideal practice. What exactly do you not like about your current job? What did you love or hate about previous jobs? Are you interested in serving a specific community? Are you passionate about teaching or research? Do you want administrative responsibilities? Are you interested in a physician leadership role? Also consider alternative practice models, such as direct patient care or telemedicine. Once you have a clear picture of your future practice, it becomes much easier to focus your search.
2. Make a list
Once you have gained clarity regarding the overall vibe of the practice you are looking for, it’s time to hone in on the details.
It helps to make a list up front of what’s important to you in a new practice, in order from most to least significant. Consider location, compensation, call schedule, patient load, administrative duties, teaching responsibilities, staffing ratio, IT support, electronic health records, benefits package, work/life balance and practice culture. Also consider whether you prefer a multispecialty group, hospital-based practice, community health clinic, solo office or other arrangement.
Writing down and ranking what’s most important to you can help further focus your search. You’ll be able to spend your time considering only those jobs that match well with your list. The practices that score poorly on your list can be quickly nixed.
3. Allow plenty of time
Many physicians underestimate the amount of time it takes to get through the job-change process. It can easily take six months to a year to transition between jobs in the medical field. It’s a good idea to set aside dedicated time in your regular work schedule for tasks related to the job search.
Use the dedicated time to explore job opportunities, prepare or update your CV, participate in phone interviews and schedule site visits. It’s also important to allow time to research communities and specific employers online. Plan to visit promising communities more than once prior to making a final decision. Remember, once you make a decision, it can still take several months to obtain a state license and get through the credentialing process before you are actually ready to make the move.
4. Let your spouse help
Family and friends can be a huge asset when it comes to overcoming job-search stress. People close to you can help you weigh the pros and cons of various opportunities. Spouses in particular are an integral part of helping you manage job-search stress. Spouses can help with many non-medical related tasks, such as evaluating local school systems, researching communities, exploring housing options and arranging the details of site visits.
Have your spouse weigh in on your list of must-haves. It’s easy to get bogged down in the fine details, such as patient loads or staffing ratios, and neglect the importance of work/life balance. Your spouse can help remind you there’s life outside of medicine.
5. Work closely with recruiters
Physician recruiters are valuable resources. Most hospitals or large group practices have in-house recruiters who are knowledgeable about the practice’s culture and needs and can help you through the job-search process. If you are flexible about your eventual location or practice model, consider an independent recruiter to help you network and research opportunities. Make sure to be completely upfront with any recruiter with regards to what you are looking for.
The search for new employment can be overwhelming, but much of the related pressure can be overcome by following these tips. Remember, new opportunities can bring fulfillment and improved career satisfaction. Happy hunting!
Jennifer L. Brown, M.D., is a board-certified family medicine physician with almost 20 years of experience in traditional family medicine. She has also spent time on the administrative side as medical director of a multispecialty clinic. Most recently, she has switched gears into urgent care telemedicine. Her areas of interest include physician work/life balance, alternate physician practices and physician mental health/substance abuse.