Broaden your skills. Commit to learning new skills that can increase your impact and career diversity. Procedural skills; information technology; and EMR, EBM, research, public health, QI, business, leadership, public speaking, advocacy, and telehealth, can all open up a whole world of possibilities when combined with a medical degree. These skills can move you into areas that keep you engaged and excited to go to work.
Engage in mentor/mentee relationships. As an associate program director and clinician-educator, I had a lot of opportunity to mentor residents and fellows. It is so rewarding to watch the mentee grow in experience and skills, and to eventually see many of them assume leadership and mentoring roles themselves. You don’t have to be in a teaching position to act as a mentor (my experience mentoring hospitalists and others in leadership and quality improvement now far surpasses my experience with house staff).
The mentor often benefits as much as the mentee from this relationship. I have been inspired by their passion and dedication, educated by their ideas and innovation, and frequently find I am learning more from them, than they are from me. I have had great experiences in the SHM Mentored Implementation program in the role of mentee and mentor.
Participate in a community. When I first joined NAIP, I was amazed that the giants (Wachter, Nelson, Whitcomb, Holman, Williams, Greeno, Howell, Huddleston, Wellikson, and on and on) were not only approachable, they were warm, friendly, interesting, and extraordinarily welcoming. The ever-expanding and evolving community at SHM continues that tradition and offers a forum to share innovative work, discuss common problems and solutions, contact world experts, or just find an empathetic ear. Working on toolkits and collaborative efforts with this community remains a real highlight of my career, and the source of several lasting friendships. So don’t be shy; step right up; and introduce yourself!
Avoid my past mistakes (this might be a long list). Random things you should try to avoid.
- Tribalism – It is natural to be protective of your hospitalist group, and to focus on the injustices heaped upon you from (insert favorite punching bag here, e.g., ED, orthopedists, cardiologists, nursing staff, evil administration penny pinchers, etc). While some of those injustices might be real, tribalism, defensiveness, and circling the wagons generally only makes things worse. Sit down face to face, learn a little bit about the opposing tribe (both about their work, and about them as people), and see how much more fun and productive work can be.
- Storming out of a meeting with the CMO and CEO, slamming the door, etc. – not productive. Administrative leaders are doing their own juggling act and are generally well intentioned and doing the best they can. Respect that, argue your case, but if things don’t pan out, shake their hand, and live to fight another day.
- Using e-mail (evil-mail) to resolve conflict – And if you’re a young whippersnapper, don’t use Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, or other social media to address conflict either!
- Forgetting to put patients first – Frame decisions for your group around what best serves your patients, not your doctors. Long term, this gives your group credibility and will serve the hospitalists better as well. SHM does this on a large scale with their advocacy efforts, resulting in more credibility and influence on Capitol Hill.
Make time for friends, family, fitness, fun, and reflection. A sense of humor and an occasional laugh when dealing with ill patients, hospital medicine politics, and the EMR all day provides resilience, as does taking the time to foster self-awareness and insight into your own weaknesses, strengths, and how you react to different stressors. A little bit of exercise and time with family and friends can go a long way towards improving your outlook, work, and life in general, while reducing burnout. Oh yeah, it’s also a good idea to choose a great life partner as well. Thanks Michelle!
Dr. Maynard is chief quality officer, University of California Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, Calif.