“I’m sorry to see you go,” said my former hospital administrator. As I sat across from him, I flatly replied, “I’m not.” A moment of silence. I surprised myself a bit, to have gotten to the point where I felt that way about a job I once loved; let alone to have made such an admission in the exit interview.
It’s a strange thing to become indifferent to something you once cared for; in this moment I was summarizing three years of my life in those two words.

That was a short time ago, and I have now quickly realized quitting my ‘regular’ job as an employed hospitalist is the best decision for my career going forward. Three years ago I started my journey as a newly minted attending physician and accepted my first job as a Nocturnist (i.e. a hospitalist that works only the overnight shift). I’ve always been the independent thinker of my group; the kind who could make the outlandish decision to move halfway across the country into a relatively remote area (especially compared to my NJ/NY upbringing and med school), and my colleagues reacted with: “if anyone would have done that, it would be you”.

Practicing medicine in the Midwest was a paradigm shift when compared to the New York metro area, and I for one welcomed that. I have now taken some temporary positions around the country, practicing in all different kinds of environments… big census and small, and I would recommend the experience for any physician. The term ‘broadening your horizons’ oversimplifies it; medicine is a mindset as much as a discipline, and different parts of the country encompass that mindset in many different ways. But that is a story for another time. For me it was time for a change; I needed to, to reinvigorate my passion for medicine and caring for others. I found that reanimation through travel.

What is Job Satisfaction?
I feel that my colleagues do not ask this question enough for their own sakes. We work in an industry of unparalleled mobility; we are not tied down anywhere, unless we choose to be. The quality of anything in life – especially working environment – is as high (or low) as we are willing to accept.

Well, whatever job satisfaction is…. I knew it was lacking for me towards the end of my recent position. I recall sending an email to my boss to discuss a situation and ended with “this is not why I became a physician.” It was a slow build over time; the occasional outburst of frustration, where I surprised myself in my sudden boldness (I’m pretty laid back), leading all the way to the moment of “I’m not”. Job satisfaction matters and often times as employed physicians, we do feel underappreciated. We know as physicians that we are being overloaded with menial tasks and it takes time away from our patients.

How accepting should we be of this? Where is the line in the sand for you personally? The Surgeon General’s office has been creating a lot of discussion this year about emotional well – being and its vital role in our ability to deliver quality of care. I wanted to take better care of myself, and I felt my passion for medicine had become a job, something I never intended. I no longer looked forward to going to work but rather had a sense of dread prior to every shift. I could recall days where I would get angry when arriving to work. Does this happen to you? It should not be this way!

I realized my locum tenens colleagues were getting a better deal and this group was receiving “special treatment.” They were paid more per hour and had the ability to pick their own schedules! My employed partners on the other hand, would have their schedules changed last minute which would lead to increased stress at home. I wanted more control over my practice and this appealed to me as a way to seize it back.

Locum Tenens Options
The locum tenens opportunity was one that intrigued me so I gave it a shot. This led to my traveling the country and totally evolved my worldview of medicine as I experienced many different working environments. My first assignment was a dramatic difference as compared to my employed position. Most notably, I felt a sense of appreciation from my new hospital employer. I also realized that my patients were grateful to have a physician fly in to town just to take care of them. It was a new sense of appreciation which lead to a renewed passion to practice medicine. Could this method of practicing help other physicians not just avoid burnout, but rekindle their passion for medicine?

If you find yourself questioning your level of job satisfaction, if you question your work like balance or are just “burned out” as a physician, I want you know there are more options out there for you. Burning out comes in stages, and it’s innocent enough at first; that undercurrent of frustration, the dread when you are starting your shift. I chose not to accept that quality of my work life anymore and in a short few months I can see (and feel) the difference. Remember – what we accept is what the quality will be.

In my next few blog posts, I will expand on some of these areas and hope to provide insight and encouragement to my physician colleagues. You can exert more control over your practice and there are multiple ways to do that. I want everyone to experience the level of satisfaction and control that I now feel in my practice and work life balance. Feel free to reach out to me at www.mpsmd.com and tell me your story – you too have a story that needs to be told.