Q: For group leaders, why is it important for you to continue seeing patients?
A: As a clinician leader, my charge is to foster teamwork and create a shared vision for improvement and change. This is not possible to do from an office space or conference room separate from where the work gets done.
Q: As a hospitalist, seeing most of your patients for the very first time, what aspect of patient care is most challenging?
A: Establishing trust and rapport in five to 10 minutes. Caring for a hospitalized patient, when they are surrounded by loved ones, is stressful and anxiety-provoking. Delivering information in a way that is honest and empathetic and timely without the benefit of having a personal historic connection with a patient is always challenging.
Q: What aspect of patient care is most rewarding?
A: Making a diagnosis in a patient that has eluded diagnosis for weeks or months.
Q: What aspect of teaching in the 21st century is most difficult? And what is most enjoyable?
A: Today’s learners have different expectations from mine [in terms] of what they want to get from a career in medicine. While I don’t always agree with them, it is the reality and puts me in a position to discuss and understand the rationale of a changing mindset. As a physician leader, it is important to understand this because it helps me create an environment that fosters successful recruitment and retention.
Q: You mention wanting to tackle the issue of physician burnout? Why is that something important to you?
A: I personally lived through it and felt the effects it had on the relationships I had with family, friends, medical students, residents, and patients. I know what it felt like to be angry, cynical, and distanced from those I cared about and from those whom I was charged with caring for. I never forgot how isolated [you] can feel in an academic center even when surrounded by hundreds. I vowed that if I ever found my way to a leadership position, I would begin by creating an environment that emphasized morale, honesty, integrity, and professionalism. If I succeeded in this, the other organizational missions of education, patient care, quality, and value would follow.
Since 2012, our division has monitored burnout, work-life balance, and, more recently, physician engagement. Although we take care of the sickest children in the region, our group supports each other, recognizing and respectful of the fact that we each have different comfort levels, skill sets, but we also have fun. Patients, nurses, social workers, care coordinators, and clerks see this. Like I teach the residents, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but you also never get a second chance to make a last one, so make all interactions count. TH
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.