Your physician career or job – does the ideal version exist?

10-23-14idealjob“Heck, no!” I hear many of you yelling. “I’m sick of being a physician.” “I still like medicine, however my job sucks …”

According to a major new survey of 20,000 physicians commissioned by The Physicians Foundation whose report is titled “2014 Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives,”

81 percent of physicians describe themselves as either over-extended or at full capacity, while only 19 percent indicate they have time to see more patients. Forty-four percent of physicians surveyed plan to take steps that would reduce patient access to  their services, including cutting back on patients seen, retiring, working part-time, closing their practice to new patients or seeking non-clinical jobs, leading to the potential loss of tens of thousands of full-time-equivalents (FTEs). As the ranks of Medicare and Medicaid patients increase – in 2011, more than 75 million baby boomers began turning 65 and qualifying for Medicare – and millions of new patients are insured through the Affordable Care Act, patient access to care could pose significant health delivery and policy challenges.

Okay, so it’s getting really rough, leaving you fantasizing about a finding much better job, or quitting.

For most physicians, quitting isn’t a realistic option, so maybe it’s time to work on redefining your ideal job. Once you know what you want, you can go out and find it, right?

I’m going to play Reality Checker here. Let’s begin with the radical idea that your ideal physician career or job doesn’t yet exist (unless of course you have actually found it).

An even more radical thought — You are going to have to create it yourself … assemble it in bits and pieces.

So how do you define an ideal physician career or job?

I invite you to play along with me as we engage in this thought experiment. But first, a word of caution. What I am about to help you do here is begin to ask questions of yourself  — the kind you may have been avoiding.

Grab a piece of paper, and writing in the present tense, get started with “I work as a (ideal job) … in a … (ideal situation)”.

Think of this in multi-layers:

  1. What is your ideal job’s workplace environment? Be specific. Describe the furniture, the building, the view from your window.
  2. Who are you interacting with ? In what capacity? In what numbers? For how long? Think bosses, peers. employees, customers etc.
  3. What is the organizational culture like? How is it expressed? What is your impact in the organization? Are you solo, or working with others?
  4. What skills and talents are you using in this role? What others have you had to acquire to do this job well? How did you acquire them?
  5. Are you still a clinician? A physician entrepreneur? A physician executive? Someone with no further connection to medicine? How have you coped with that shift in your identity?
  6. What are you contributing? What is your impact, and upon what or whom? How are you benefiting?
  7. What core values are you expressing in your job? Does what you are doing contribute to the larger good in the world, or at least in your community? Are you sufficiently satisfied with what you are doing in this role?
  8. If there are conflicts occurring in this vision, how do you resolve them?
  9. Do you have a family? How does the family fit into all of this? What are the trade-offs and how are you handling them?

There are a few rules with this exercise:

  1. Take your time with it. It may take months or years to craft this job.
  2. Explicitly recognize contradictions. This doesn’t mean they can’t occur. Just be aware of them, as potential obstacles to navigate around if necessary.
  3. Avoid the naysayer trap.
  4. Recognize that these are difficult questions to answer. But you will never find the answers if you don’t at least start asking the questions.
  5. Recognize that you have more personal power than you realize.
  6. And recognize that, as you do this exercise, you may come to redefine success.

For my sceptical readers, there is neuroscience to back up how this “manifesting your desire” works – you can read more here and here (and no, I am NOT a fan of “The Secret” or “the Power” — too woowoo for me!)

A final note — It may be that you are already in your ideal job – perhaps it just needs your intentional focus, good boundary-setting and some tweaking! Good luck.

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