Thadeo Catacutan, MD, sat in a ballroom at the Gaylord Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., on a sunny spring day at HM13, just thinking about his future after spending seven years as a hospitalist at Cleveland Clinic. He wondered if additional training in business administration would provide him with the advancement opportunities and professional fulfillment he sought.
“It’s been hard to determine what I really want to do,” he said. “After seven years, is this the peak? Are there other opportunities?
“I realize that if you are not going to specialize, you have to go into a leadership career track,” he said. “Some would say you can just be a clinician, but in the long term, I don’t think that is a sustainable path. You will just burn out.”
Dr. Catacutan isn’t the only one concerned. Nearly 200 physicians joined him for an HM13 breakout session titled “Career Tracks for Hospitalists.” The session provided attendees two viewpoints on career advancement: the executive pathway and the hospital leadership pathway. And although the session’s speakers demonstrated distinct routes to senior positions, there’s a shared path for each, including:
- Weighing choices carefully. The reasons for seeking a new career path are personal and not the same for everyone. Keep that in mind.
- Thinking about return on investment. Physicians should consider what they’re getting for their effort, whether that’s the cost of an advanced degree or the value of time spent volunteering on a hospital committee.
- Contemplating what you like about your job. When considering a career move, remember the adage that the grass is always greener.
“The way you get to take on leadership opportunities is by acceptance,” said session moderator Michael Guthrie, MD, MBA, executive in residence at the University of Colorado. “Say ‘yes.’ Say ‘I’m curious’ or ‘How can I make a contribution?’ You will stumble. You will make mistakes. You will be clumsy. … But it is that process that teaches you what you need to know.”
Path: Advanced Training
Michael Ruhlen, MD, MHCM, FACHE, SFHM, said he needed to know how to communicate better with the administrators he regularly met with to discuss his pediatric hospitalist program.
“I found that I wasn’t always speaking the same language when I talked to administrators about the value that hospitalists brought to their individual institutions,” he said. “No matter how hard I tried, I could always walk into a room with a master’s-prepared administrator who could absolutely prove to me that my hospitalist program would cost them far more money than it would ever be worth—and they simply could not afford it.”
To address what he calls a “knowledge deficit,” Dr. Ruhlen earned his master’s degree in health-care management from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Armed with new business acumen, he rose to vice president of medical affairs at Toledo Children’s Hospital in Ohio, and even served as interim president for a short time before he became vice president and chief medical officer of Carolina HealthCare Systems in Charlotte, N.C.
“Communications, public speaking, and change management was a very big component of what we were taught,” he added, “as well as performance improvement, which is where my career has drifted.”