Hospitalists need only look at their inboxes to see the demand they command. Messages beckon from recruiters, professional acquaintances, even prospective employers, pitching job openings as the next big gig. The constant barrage of opportunities can leave hospitalists wondering if there really is something better out there, and if they’re getting the most out of their current jobs.
One way to answer these types of questions is to conduct a formal career assessment, which inventories what is working and what isn’t working in a career and examines how a career fits into a person’s overall life at that point in time, says Cezanne Allen, MD, a certified physician development coach based in Bainbridge Island, Wash.
“Any time a hospitalist finds themselves in a situation where they are dissatisfied or unhappy in their job, they’re not feeling that their current job is very rewarding, or maybe they have career goals they don’t feel they are achieving yet, that would be a good time to do a career assessment,” says Leslie Flores, MHA, a partner at Nelson Flores Hospital Medicine Consultants. “Sometimes you just have to step back and say, ‘What do I really want and is this going to get me there, and if not, what do I need to do about it?’”
—Thomas Frederickson, MD, MBA, FACP, FHM, medical director of hospital medicine service, Alegent Health, Omaha, Neb.
You’ve Got Personality
Career assessments are as unique as the person conducting them, but there are some elements that hospitalists should consider. A behavioral profile or personality test is extremely helpful for physicians in understanding what their natural “hard-wiring” is when it comes to learning, problem-solving, and communication, says Francine Gaillour, MD, FACPE, MBA, executive director of the Physician Coaching Institute in Bellevue, Wash., which links doctors and healthcare teams with certified career coaches.
A number of personality tests are available for physicians (see “What’s My Personality?,” at right), but a career expert can help interpret the results and best use the information. Along with behavioral style and personality traits, hospitalists should consider their strengths and weaknesses, skills, interests, and criteria for the right job, Flores says. This introspection falls within a career assessment’s self-awareness component, she explains.
Hospitalists can add a situation component, in which they examine their current job and what “can” and “can’t” be changed, or an options component, in which they evaluate staying in the same organization versus leaving, Flores says.
If a physician is dissatisfied with their job, they should seek out the source of their frustration, Dr. Allen says. For example, is it the quality of work, workload, types of patients, patient interaction, practice development, medical knowledge limitations, lack of enjoyment, staff support, reimbursement, or work environment?
“It’s asking myself where I see the problem and then following it up with, ‘What does that tell me about what I really want?’” Dr. Allen says.
A mentor, who can provide objective and critical insight, can help in the assessment process, says Thomas Frederickson, MD, MBA, FACP, FHM, medical director of hospital medicine service at Alegent Health in Omaha, Neb. “There are often mentors within your group who have developed skills and expertise, and have learned to do different things in their careers that you might find exciting,” he explains.
Hospitalists should consult at least one “blind-spot buddy”—be it a mentor, colleague, or some other person—who can pinpoint their weaknesses, Flores says. “It’s somebody who knows you in your work world, who is close enough to be able to observe how you’re functioning in your work world, who can give you good feedback, and who cares enough about you to give you honest feedback, even when it’s not something you want to hear,” she says.
SHM can be a resource for hospitalists to find ways and people to help them assess their careers, say Dr. Frederickson.
“The Society of Hospital Medicine and their annual meetings and chapter meetings are a great place to do networking and a good place to find out different ways and different people you can align yourself with to start looking at your career in an objective way and a critical way,” he says.
Career coaches can be a good option, particularly for hospitalists who are struggling with significant change. Coaches do more than assist with resumes and interview strategies, says Dr. Gaillour. They help people align their careers with their values, strengths, passions, and goals so that they reach their full potential as a professional and a person, she says.
Coaches also advise on how to strategically plan a career and help physicians build career resilience.
“By resilience, I mean that there is always going to be some relevance to what you’re doing and you’re going to be able to weather some of the [healthcare] changes,” Dr. Gaillour says. “With a lot of physician groups and hospitals coming together and the stress of new initiatives, mergers, integrations, electronic medical records, and accountable-care organizations, all of that has a direct impact on physicians.”
The Time Is Right
Recommendations vary on how often career assessments should be conducted. Flores suggests hospitalists conduct a career checkup every two to three years “to see if they’re still on track and if their interests and goals have changed.”
Two years ago, William Atchley Jr., MD, FACP, SFHM, assessed his career while chief of the division of hospital medicine for Sentara Healthcare, a nonprofit healthcare system based in Norfolk, Va. The assessment was illuminating, he says, because it helped him to crystallize his strengths and weaknesses and determine “what I wanted to be doing,” he says.
In July, Dr. Atchley joined Atlanta-based Eagle Hospital Physicians, a physician-led company that develops and manages hospitalist practices for client hospitals. He is now regional senior medical director and is overseeing clinical services and medical affairs in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.
The more often physicians examine their career, the better they become at understanding themselves and using that understanding to their advantage, Dr. Gaillour says, who advocates annual assessments. Others suggest a daily dose of assessment.
“Daily, a physician can create a ritual to just check in with themselves, have a space where they can ask themselves questions of what went well today, what do I want more of, if there are complaints that are arising,” Dr. Allen says. “It’s an important way of preventing ourselves from getting in a place where we are really dissatisfied.”
Lisa Ryan is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.