Sometimes life would be much easier if we had a flowchart to guide us with all of our decisions. Fortunately life can’t be dumbed down to a giant decision tree. No matter what our hospital administration or policymakers argue, medical decisions also can’t be pared down to a simple infographic for anyone to interpret. Likewise, there is no special sauce for physicians to succeed in their careers either.
While there is no formula for career success, a good starting point that I always discuss with my trainees are the three A’s in medicine. Let’s review the A’s:
You have to be present in order to win, simple as that. To build a successful medical practice, you have to make it easy for patients to get into your office. A greater number of open clinic slots, more accepted health insurance panels, and greater range of open hours are all factors that allow patients ease of access to your clinic. If you are inpatient-based, you have to be available for consults, admissions, and whatever else your expertise can offer. Everyone likes the path of least resistance. The only way to get business is to be open for business.
Being approachable goes a long way. Referring providers and patients alike will all prefer someone who is friendly and won’t yell at them when they call for a consult. Primary care physicians who show empathy will more likely to receive word-of-mouth business from patient’s coworkers and family members. Medicine is very much a service industry. The better you cater to your clientele and referrers, the more likely you will have return business.
Hospital-based physicians have similar demands too—we all work as a team in the healthcare system and it doesn’t take long for your coworkers to know who makes their day go easier. Pay it forward. Eventually you will get something in return.
Ability in your profession
We should all strive to excel in our trade. In medicine this means being able to diagnose and treat with the latest guidelines and evidence-based approaches. It means using the appropriate judgment on who actually needs treatment, who needs to be referred to a different physician, and who should be admitted to the hospital.
If you do good work, eventually the community will get wind of your outcomes. Your peers will also see your results and send you more patients. If you work for the hospital, the outcomes will dictate how much you will be rewarded.
The fourth ‘A’: Ability to save
Financial success, in a nutshell, could be strategically condensed into the fourth ‘A’: the ability to save. Inputs and outputs, simple as that. If you diurese the kidneys more than what you put in, you will have a net negative. If you consume fewer calories than you expend, you will lose weight.
If you spend more than you save, your net worth will go down.
Ironically, earning ability is completely independent of saving ability. Neither is taught formally in medical school or residency. How we often approach our finances appears to be related to life experiences, whether in childhood or during our careers. Your financial education doesn’t have to be acquired haphazardly.
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We have our entire careers to get the financial aspect down. Some medical trainees fret about not being able to get every single money decision right on the first try, but that’s not seeing the forest amidst the trees. We should all simply understand that expenditures should only constitute a percentage of our earnings in order for net worth to grow. It doesn’t matter if you focus your attention to earning or saving as much as possible—maintain a set ratio of in’s and out’s and you will come out ahead.
How much do you follow the A’s of medicine?