LAS VEGAS – In the view of academic hospitalist Alfred Burger, MD, SFHM, portability was long a dirty word in HM circles. But not anymore.
“My good friends in law and business do this all the time,” said Dr. Burger, associate program director of the internal medicine residency program at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York. “You’re not going to make partner in city X, but they’ve got an opening to be partner in city Y if you go there and perform for a year. People up and leave coasts, people up and leave states, people have up and left the country. … Doctors are starting to view it the same way.”
The lessons of career development were a focal point of HM17, particularly for younger physicians who could take advantage of the Early-Career Hospitalists mini-track. But Dr. Burger said that those strategies of upward mobility can apply whether someone is chasing their first job or their fifth.
First, identify one’s strengths and play to those. Then identify the skills you don’t have or don’t excel at, and address those deficiencies.
“How can you acquire the skills to put yourself in the best position to move up, if you wish to develop your career as a leader?” Dr. Burger said. “If you wish to be the best clinician, you still need to stay on top of the game. Things like coming to SHM, staying on top of the content. That’s important.”
Another skill set is self-advocacy.
“Be your own champion,” said Brian Markoff, MD, SFHM, chief of hospital medicine at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s in New York. “Many of us are very good at this and many of us are terrible at this. You may fall somewhere in between, but you do have to be your own champion.”
Dr. Burger said that he understands that there is a fine line between too much self-promotion and too little. But he urged hospitalists at all career points to take responsibility for marketing themselves.
“Nobody is going to invest in your career unless you yourself invest in it,” he added. “You have to put it as a priority, and not in a selfish way, but in a way [that,] if you wish to move forward and move up, you’ve got to put the time in. It’s not a natural assumption anymore that, if you are the best and brightest of a group of doctors, you will just be chosen to lead.”
In a similar vein, networking is a major boon to career development that can be a double-edged scalpel.
“Having a great ‘social game’ is important, but if all you bring to the table is a social game, you’ll find yourself out of a job just as quickly as you found that job,” Dr. Burger said. “Meaning, you might be able to get it based on that, but you’re not going to be able to sustain it. At the same time, being highly accomplished and having no social graces is also a killer. So, you need to be sort of strong in both areas.”
Many of the meeting’s opportunities for tips on professional development are personal, but HM group leaders have to consider developing the careers of their employees. One of the main planks of that is physician engagement, said Flora Kisuule, MD, MPH, SFHM, of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.
“I don’t believe your institution or your organization can go anywhere if your employees are not engaged or if the people you work with are not engaged,” she said, adding that disengaged employees “are actively working against you. You don’t want that. You can’t go in any direction when there are people rowing in the opposite direction. At best, you stay in one place. At worst, you can end up losing ground.”
Hospitalist Christie Masters, MD, MBA, MHA, who practices at UCLA, disclosed during a session that she also runs a wellness coaching firm. She added that a focus on personal wellness and well-being is its own form of career development. It works in tandem with engagement, morale, and professional growth.
“If you’re only focusing on wellness and you don’t have hospitalists or a group that’s engaged or with high morale, they’re going to burnout or they’re going to leave,” Dr. Masters said. “And nobody wants that for their group. So, if we surround ourselves with people who feel well and feel whole, that’s going to have intangible benefits … that affect the bottom line.”