What should doctors do if their jobs are not a good fit?

We’ve all seen it. Some of us have experienced it.  The rest of us WILL experience it.  You take your dream job after your training, and it turns out that the dream job was really a dream.  Perhaps your q2 call schedule turned out to be tougher than you had anticipated.  Maybe your hospital ends up being short on doctors so you end up taking more shifts than you’d prefer to. And no, you don’t get overtime pay as a doctor! You get the same rate as you would otherwise. I’ve known a few unfortunate doctors who actually end up taking new jobs and finding themselves in another similarly unfavorable situation. What gives? Is the world out to get you?

Find out what makes the situation unpleasant to you. 

Everyone is different.  I have friends who are okay with taking two to three weeks off a year and working holidays.  I have others who cringe at taking no less than six weeks.  I have friends who are okay with spending their weekends rounding (their spouses and kids are apparently okay with it as well) instead of hanging out at home or taking a road trip.

Common issues that I’ve seen my colleagues complain about include:

  • Call schedule too onerous.
  • Pay is too low.
  • Patients are too sick.
  • Patients are too healthy.
  • Job is too boring.
  • Location of the practice/hospital is too remote.
  • Senior partners abuse them.
  • Too many satellite locations.
  • Partnership track too unfavorable (they find out two-three years into employment).
  • Work hours too long (many outpatient specialties are open on weekends)

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Whatever situation that makes your life unpleasant, you need to identify what needs to change in order for you to be happy.  As doctors, we are great at shutting out unpleasant memories.  It would be a shame for you to seek out a new opportunity only to have the same problems that you encountered in a previous job.

You might have problem if you sleep here more frequently than in your own bed.

Try to remedy the unpleasant situations at your current job first.

Look, most people don’t like to move, especially if they have established friends and family in a particular area.  Some of us have strong religious ties to a location.  Even most financially independent early retirees with school-aged children choose to stick around most of the time (That’s you Justin @RootOfGood and @RetireBy40).  It would behoove you to talk to your coworkers, managers, administrators, and bosses to determine if any of your gripes can be resolved amicably.  I’ve discovered that in negotiation, you have to figure out what you bring to the table in order to justify your worth.

You might also like: How are doctors paid?

If you are the world’s expert on melanoma, you probably will have more negotiating power than even the most skilled orthopedic surgeon.  Even then, the negotiating power has to align with what your employer needs.  A private practice Dermatology practice may prefer to have a proficient and friendly general Dermatologist over the world’s smartest melanoma guru.

Not all of us will have that magical ace up our sleeves for improving our work/life situation, but it is definitely financially advantageous for most people to keep the same job if possible.  This is mostly because of the effort and potential lost income that comes from job changes.

If you end up moving to another state, you will need to apply for a new medical license, get credentialed on insurance plans, and potentially spend months without income if you end your prior job prematurely.

You need to figure out an exit plan.

If all else fails and you find that your current situation cannot be rectified, you will have to find greener pastures.  But wait, you shouldn’t just march into your boss’s office and give her the middle finger! You need a backup plan. It is easier and less stressful to find alternative opportunities if you have an existing job.  Once you’ve made the decision to make the switch, plan out your next steps:

  1. Look for opportunities nearby. Perhaps in the same city or nearby regions. Then look elsewhere in the same state, if you would prefer minimize your move.  You already have an active medical license in your state, so that is the easiest route to take if you decide to change jobs. Be sure to check if your existing practice has restrictive covenants.
  2. Check with your colleagues elsewhere who might have some leads on potential opportunities. An potential opportunity might crop up that you might otherwise not know about.
  3. Look at your professional society job bulletins for opportunities.  Given that there are so many postings, it can be confusing if you are not locked into a particular region.  Try to narrow down opportunities that might suit you, and check them out. Make sure that you have an updated CV, clean up your online profiles, and go at it. You might find yourself looking for over a year for the right fit. That is okay, if you are able to maintain you current job.
  4. As with any profession, the more people you speak to, the more that you will learn about the profession. You will develop a better understanding of what is important to your lifestyle and what the critical questions to ask a practice or hospital.  You are also more marketable as a doctor if you have already been in practice for several years.
  5. Don’t be afraid! Many doctors in this situation are primary breadwinners in the household. They may have kids, a stay-at-home spouse, and no ancillary income. If you have been playing your cards appropriate, you should have an emergency fund and have been living below your means!

You might also like: How to burn through a $1 million salary

Go for it.

It is not easy to pull the trigger. A new job means a potentially big move. Take a breath, don’t fret. You are still (hopefully) an able-bodied doctor with good earning potential.  Don’t be worried that you might make a mistake.  We all do. Don’t be afraid to keep your head high, regroup if you have to, and keep whittling away. Good luck!

Any tips for the job hunter?

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

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