This is the third in a series of articles on the four pillars of career satisfaction in hospital medicine.
How much does your satisfaction with your job rely on your compensation level? What about your sense of being appreciated for what you do each day?
Many hospitalists would say the latter could be a key factor in their happiness with their career. This is confirmed in a new white paper from SHM, “A Challenge for a New Specialty: A White Paper on Hospitalist Career Satisfaction” (available online at www.hospitalmedicine.org). This document, created by SHM’s Career Satisfaction Task Force (CSTF), can be used by hospitalists and hospital medicine practices as a toolkit for improving or ensuring job satisfaction. It outlines the four pillars of career satisfaction, the third of which is reward/recognition.
The Third Pillar
The reward/recognition pillar includes not just financial rewards but also social rewards (appreciation by your colleagues, leaders, patients, and family) and intrinsic rewards (healing patients or working efficiently and productively).
Achieving on-the-job recognition requires practicing high-quality medicine, communicating this to all the groups above, and participating in professional development and leadership. It also entails building relationships with peers and allied health professionals, hospital executives, patients, and the community.
“Reward and recognition ties in a lot with the other pillars—especially community,” says CSTF member Adrienne Bennett, MD, PhD, Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus. “Part of what makes or breaks any hospitalist job is the group you work with and how you get along. This has to do with how you’re viewed and how you’re rewarded and supported.”
The classic dichotomy of values in hospital medicine is salary versus quality of life. Some groups offer higher salaries with heavy workloads and/or many shifts, and others value time over money. But there are additional values that affect reward and recognition. For example, let’s say you want to build a career or reputation in patient safety and quality of care but you work for a hospital medicine group focused mainly on high-volume patient care that is not engaged in quality improvement work. Your group may not value or reward your efforts. This can lead to job dissatisfaction.
“Make sure the group you join has a culture that shares or at least respects and supports your other career interests,” advises Dr. Bennett. “Working with a group where you’re a good fit and that supports your career aspirations is the most important aspect of career satisfaction.”
An Example of Reward Issues
To illustrate how reward/recognition works, here’s a fictional example of a hospitalist faced with a decision regarding her career:
“I’m ready to find my first job in hospital medicine, and my husband just accepted a pulmonary fellowship at a Midwestern university hospital. There are five hospital medicine groups in the area to choose from. I have to decide which I’d prefer to work for. My main priority is that I want to be ‘a name’ in hospital medicine—I want a chance to build a good reputation nationally.”
According to the white paper, a hospitalist in this position should take several steps to ensure career satisfaction:
Step 1: Assess your choices. Use the series of questions provided in the white paper to compare programs, including compensation and benefits.
“This hospitalist seems to want something more out of her work than just the rewards that come from taking excellent care of her patients,” observes Dr. Bennett. “When she’s interviewing, she needs to ask very carefully about opportunities for leadership development and for building her local reputation, which is the first step toward larger recognition. She needs to find out if the group supports and values work on hospital and/or medical association committees. Many community-based groups do support this.”
Step 2: Once you’re hired, set short- and long-term performance goals. Understand what you want to be recognized for, and outline what you want to accomplish—whether it’s a research project, a leadership role on a committee, or simply a standard of patient care you set for yourself.
Step 3: Participate in SHM chapter meetings. Network with physicians from other hospital medicine groups, get involved, and make a name for yourself.
How Your Rewards Stack up
Whether you’re questioning the compensation package at your long-term hospitalist position or weighing a decision on taking a new job, you’ll turn to available benchmark data on hospital medicine.
“There are a lot ways that benchmarks help and hurt,” warns Dr. Bennett. “Some of it isn’t very good because it’s based on very small numbers. If you’re dealing with an employer that relies on data [for compensation levels], it’s important to know what data they’re using. A reliable employer should share that information. Even the SHM benchmark data—which is probably the best we have, since it’s based on several thousand practicing hospitalists in a variety of settings—can’t always tell you how your job compares.”
Many variations within groups and individual jobs make it hard to compare positions side by side. Differentiating factors include salary and other compensation factors, patient load, shifts and schedule (including nights and weekends), and job responsibilities.
“Sometimes you can use the number of work [relative value units] RVUs to compare workloads,” Dr. Bennett suggests.
As with all the pillars of career satisfaction, the rewards and recognitions that come with your job must be measured against what other hospitalist positions offer—but more importantly against your values and priorities. TH
Jane Jerrard has written for The Hospitalist since 2005.