Recently, I blogged about being at my new job for 10 years. It was a wonderful experience to blog about stability. It’s also illuminating I’ve been here for 10 years and still call it my new job.
Not long after the blog post went up, I got an email from a soon to graduate Emergency Medicine resident who was curious as to what techniques I have used to stay at the same job for 10 years. This caused me some consternation, as I don’t think I really had an actual plan to be at the same place for this period of time. Emergency medicine practitioners are not known to stay in the same place for a long time, so blogging about a 10 year stay is something of an anomaly.
When I was a resident the common knowledge given was that it was important to serve on hospital committees, and to otherwise do a good job and you would be recognized and your life would be fine. This may or may not be true for everyone. I did find that I was on hospital committees, but it was after I’d been here for more than eight years and was interested in serving on them. One of the unusual things about my group is that there is extraordinary longevity, and I’m still basically middle of the pack having been here 10 years. I realize this is atypical for emergency medicine, but I think it will become more normal to have more job longevity as the emergency medicine field matures, and as there are more graduating residents.
What you’ll find helps you in the long run in emergency medicine is being a good colleague to the medical staff. This is somewhat antithetical to the way we’re trained, which is this low-level combat between departments, but ultimately the rainmakers talk to the hospital President, if your group isn’t making it some other group will. This does not mean you have to be a doormat but it does mean that when a consultant calls and asks you for a favor if it’s not unreasonable you should do it. This isn’t bad medicine, this is actually good medicine because you’re helping a smart colleague help out their patient. This service does not go unnoticed. In fact, if you want to stay in your place for a long time, be known to be helpful.
Being competent, you’d think, would be a given; you’d be wrong. Being competent in your job, and collegial with the nurses and staff, goes a long way to being accepted as one of the group and being one of the group means you get to stay.
Nobody wants their doctor to be having a bad day. Nobody who works there wants the ER doctor to be having a bad day. It doesn’t matter that your cat threw up in your shoes, or that your underwear is too tight, you have to try to get along. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’m all roses and sunshine but I’m trying every day to get better at this.
Your reputation is set early, take advantage of that. I have a reputation for always being early; these days I’m about on time. For the first six months, I was about 10 to 15 minutes early for every shift. But, since I was always early initially, my reputation is set. On the same theme, as a colleague says, two minutes late is not on time, it’s very very late. When you’re working your tail off, you don’t want to be wondering when your relief is coming in. You’re very important; so is every single person you work with. Never forget that.
New grads are always interested in, and worry about, hospital politics. Here’s the short version of hospital politics in your first two years of practice: don’t make the directors’ job hard. That’s all you have to do. Just show up, work, practice good medicine, and don’t make the director’s job hard. The director is in that position for a reason; as a matter of fact, they’re so smart they hired you, so you should give them the benefit of the doubt when the iffy call comes out. They don’t want you to bother a certain specialist after a certain time; there’s a reason for that, and you should have a conversation behind closed doors, not at the nurses station.
And, when you do finally step in it, and make the mess that’s going to show up on the directors desk sooner or later, you need to be the one that has the conversation with the director first and they don’t need to hear about it from anyone else. This is basic leadership and you need to get on board with it. If they have the facts, and have your side of the story good or bad, they can help you; if they get called on the carpet and have to defend you not knowing your side of the tale, you will not come out the better for the experience. This is just the way of the world, it’s been the same way since you got punished for your brother knocking over the lamp. Help the guy who’s got to help you.
Also, when you show up, you’re going to be full of new knowledge. This doesn’t mean you’re smarter than the group, this just means you got out of training more recently. Use your new power for good and not for evil. And as you’ve probably guessed, there are about 30 ways to skin a cat, and you got trained in two. Keep your eyes open, and learn from your colleagues. They want to help you, let them help you.
Finally, have a life. Don’t spend all the money, put some away, as you may be like me and have to change jobs the first year. It happens. It happens to a lot of us; this doesn’t mean you’re bad it just means it was a bad fit. Keep trying.
Most of that was platitudes; sorry about that. The realty is if you’re a good person, do a good job, and play well with others you’ll be fine.
This was written with the new Mountain Lion operating system for the iMac; it was dictated and now you know that I don’t speak well.