Here are five nuggets of wisdom for new doctors entering the private world.
1. Ignore your pay stub. It is true, unless you were a heck of moonlighter, you just got a pay raise. Congratulations. But I implore you to keep living as if you were still in training. Drive an inexpensive car. No, check that, embrace that clunker like it was a pink phone case—something that sets you apart. Don’t add to your debt by buying a huge house. Say no to the country club. Live close to the hospital. Use the extra monthly income to pay off loans. Think of the word: cushion.
2. Keep an open mind. Yes, we know that you are up on the latest techniques, having seen and perhaps even used the latest laser, balloon or robot—tools that our hospital cannot afford. You are also well-versed in spreadsheets and abstract writing, and you probably know many well-published people—maybe your former teachers were “thought leaders.” That’s great. Nifty even.
But the thing is, now you are on your own. That humble technician who scrubbed in with you has seen many young docs flail. She has seen the mistakes you are about to make. Listen to her, respect her, pretend she is a professor. She wants to help you; she will help you, if you let her.
Likewise, the older docs around the hospital will help you too. Though many of us trained when procainamide was still available, and taking night call meant carrying a bag-phone around, we have probably done your primary procedure 7,399 more times than you have. We have limped out of the hospital in dismay after causing the complication you have yet to cause. We look at your newness with envy. We want to learn from you. You have capital; don’t blow it by acting too much like a cardiologist.
3. Be nice to people. Not just the obvious people, like the woman who sets out lunch in the doctors’ lounge or the procedure schedulers, but everyone else too. This hospital will be your new home. You will see these folks at the grocery, on the ball fields with your kids and soon enough you will need medical care. You are the new kid in class; people want to make friends with you. Let them.
4. Call your referring docs. To folks of my era, this came naturally. The phone call to the referring doctor after a consult or procedure served two purposes: one was to keep the primary care doc in the loop, and the second was to introduce yourself, and perhaps your new specialty. (For me, electrophysiology barely existed in 1996.) But now, the alliances between hospitals and doctors act to create barriers between medical colleagues. I would urge you to call a primary doctor even if they are owned by another institution. Not only because it is right-minded, but also because the changing marketplace may soon make partners of you two.
5. Have fun. Don’t let the checklists, forms, protocols, cubicle-doctors and metastasis of quality measures get you down. At the end of the day, your special skills, which came from years of hard work, will ultimately help you better mankind. This is a large treasure indeed. And it is immensely fun.
Author: John Mandrola, M.D., is a cardiac electrophysiologist practicing in Louisville, Ky. He is also husband to a palliative care doctor, a father and a bike racer. He blogs at drjohnm.org