Growth And Discomfort for the Vital Physician Executive

And 9 Newly Identified Physician Authored Blogs and Podcasts

The title of this post is intended to have two meanings. Any manager, leader, or executive generally finds that there is rarely growth without discomfort. Growth and discomfort (sometimes outright pain) are usually linked. It also indicates that this blog itself is due for some growth.

When I jumped in and took my first executive position as vice president for medical affairs, it began a period of growth that I had not experienced since medical school and residency.

growth and discomfort quote

During that time, I was constantly feeling a sense of discomfort. I was only partially prepared for my new role. The experiences that felt especially uncomfortable were:

  • Being the outsider at meetings with the CEO and other members of the executive team, who had worked together and met weekly for years before I joined them;
  • Learning to interact with, support, lead and inspire the directors who actually ran my division;
  • Accepting full accountability for my own performance and that of my division; and,
  • Understanding and embracing budgets.

Effective But Unorthodox Career Advice

Consider These Tactics When Pursuing a New Career

When considering a career pivot, mentors and advisors often include an admonition to follow your passion as a key piece of advice. After all, following one’s passion means that you will stick with it. You won’t easily be swayed from working on something you’re passionate about, so you’ll see it through, even when there are big challenges. To do otherwise would seem to be unorthodox career advice.

Besides, numerous surveys of, and interviews with, successful business leaders and entrepreneurs report the importance of following one’s passion. 

But there are two serious statistical concepts at play that place such advice on shaky ground.

Bad Advice

The first is that correlation does not equal causation. To the contrary, it’s quite possible that success fosters passion. It’s perfectly logical to become passionate about a career that has brought fame and fortune.

The second is survivorship bias. Yes, a high percentage of successful persons declare that passion was responsible for their success. But for every successful business owner, there are often many unsuccessful business owners.

unorthodox career advice and passion

About 60% of new restaurants fail within 3 years. Most of the founders were probably passionate about starting a restaurant. But if they were all passionate when they started (including the failures), then the correlation with success is zero at best.

Yet we never hear from the unsuccessful business founders or career seekers. Who would interview someone about being a failure?

So, the presence of passion itself probably does not correlate with success, just as the TV show American Idol has demonstrated that passion for singing does not correlate with the ability to sing well.

Top Reasons to Be LinkedIn

Why Physician Leaders Should Exploit This Social Network

LinkedIn is a social networking site designed for the business community. The site allows registered members to establish networks of people they know and trust professionally. To be LinkedIn is to be part of a business and professional network.

It was founded in 2002 and is now owned by Microsoft. With over 500 million users worldwide, it boasts about 130 million users in the United States. It currently posts about 10 million jobs.

The primary feature that defines LinkedIn is each member’s profile. Your profile can be thought of as a dynamic visual resume.

My LinkedIn Story

I updated my LinkedIn profile and submitted my name to the job listings page. An entrepreneur contacted me shortly thereafter looking for a physician with my skills to join him as a minority partner in a new venture: to open a brand new urgent care center.

He had spent two years researching the business opportunity. He had plans to open a clinic in a region north of Chicago that had a deficit of urgent care services, so he messaged me through LinkedIn and started an online conversation.

be linkedin profile

Click image to go to my LinkedIn profile.

About six months later, following some negotiation, I signed several agreements. I purchased stock in the new company, and gave notice to my then employer that I was leaving my job as chief medical officer.

Fast forward two and a half years. PromptMed Urgent Care has grown from nothing to a very active clinic, treating 40 to 50 patients per day on weekdays (a bit less on weekends).

Use This Proven 6-Step Process to Deliver Bad News

Physician Leaders Need to Know and Teach This Skill

To make some extra money, I worked as an internal medicine intern for a short while after graduating early from medical school, while waiting to start my family medicine residency. While covering the medical floors and ICU, one of the duties that I felt very unsure about was to deliver bad news to patients and their families.

On several occasions, I recall feeling totally unprepared to inform an elderly woman that her spouse did not survive the cardiopulmonary arrest that occurred while I was on call. Or the fact that the chest X-ray demonstrated a likely lung cancer in a patient admitted with a cough and bloody  sputum.

Admittedly, I probably should not have been the one having those conversations, but it just worked out that way.

Over the years, I became more comfortable with delivering bad news. I watched others do it. I read about it. But I never did receive any formal training on how to do it.

Several decades later, I was asked by the Director of Graduate Medical Education at my hospital to present a series of lectures to the residents. This past month, I presented one of those lectures devoted to the topic of delivering bad news to patients. It gave me an opportunity to review the subject.

I developed my method of delivering bad news by observing my instructors as I completed medical school and family medicine residency training. I don’t recall being taught a consistent method or process to follow.

deliver bad news difficulty

As I reviewed the subject matter and integrated what I learned with the approach that I had come to follow, I was pleased to find out that there has been an effort to study the subject and several processes have been described and tested.

Monthly Leadership Favorites – July 2017 Edition

Listening, Leadership and Accumulating Wealth

It’s time for the VITAL Physician Executive’s Monthly Leadership Favorites – July 2017 Edition. In this feature I share inspiring and enlightening advice from respected leaders, generally from outside of healthcare (but not always).

Leadership Favorites – July 2017 Edition

This month’s favorites follow…

leadership favorites - july 2017 edition accumulate wealth

Accumulate More Wealth as an Administrator

Medscape recently presented the findings from its most recent salary survey. It included a list of factors that correlate with higher levels of accumulated wealth. The authors identified ten such reasons, beyond specialty and years in practice.

My Greatest Shortcoming as a Senior Hospital Leader

One of Three That Sometimes Held Me Back

As I think back to my early experiences as a hospital executive, I recall a fairly steep learning curve. The AAPL management courses I attended helped. But it wasn’t until I saw the principles taught in those courses applied in the real world that they started to sink in. And that’s also when I began to see my greatest shortcoming as a leader.

Most financial, human resource and management concepts eventually became second-hand. With mentoring and experience, I became comfortable with most aspects of my job.

my greatest shortcoming dalai lama

But there were several duties that I struggled with through much of my career. They remained my greatest shortcomings. But I developed strategies to overcome them. 

Physician Leaders: Top 10 Reasons to Pursue a Business Degree

An Important Consideration for the Emerging Executive

About a year ago, I wrote about the need for a business degree. In my post, I listed Four Reasons to Seek a Business Degree. Since then, I have witnessed some of my colleagues enroll in MBA programs. All healthcare organizations benefit from owners or leaders with knowledge of business principles, including private practices. Is it time for you to pursue a business degree?

I am re-posting the material from my previous article. However, I am adding 6 additional benefits completing a business degree provides.

pursue a business degee mba

More physician leaders have recently acquired an MBA, MHA, MMM or MPH (an MPH is not actually a business degree, but a significant number of physician executives have one). A business or management degree is definitely not a requirement for a career as a physician executive.

There are many successful physician leaders without such a degree. There are numerous physician CEOs, working in hospitals, insurance companies, medical groups and nonprofit organizations who don’t have one.

However, if you have not already graduated from one of the 65 joint MD/MBA programs, then you will likely consider obtaining it or a similar degree after completing residency. Pursuing such a degree is a big commitment. The costs will run into the tens of thousands of dollars. It will require hundreds of hours of study and up to a three-year commitment to complete.

Physicians: Stop Complaining and Start Leading

Solve a Problem Like an Entrepreneur and Make Medicine Better

I’m intrigued by the number of articles written about the frustrations of medical practice. It makes for good reading, because it resonates with many physicians. From bloggers writing about maintainance of certification and regulations that are destroying medicine, to articles on KevinMD about burnout, physicians are not shy about complaining. But maybe it’s time to stop complaining and start leading.

If you stop in any hospital doctor’s lounge, you will certainly hear a lot more complaining. We complain about electronic medical records, complicated billing requirements, regulations, lawsuits, the difficulties of running a medical practice or working for a large institution.

stop complaining and start leading whiner

Much of the complaining is warranted. But complaining without taking action is the characteristic of a victim. What we need in healthcare is leadership, not victimhood. And true leaders jump into action and skip the whining part completely.

Complaining Is Not Leading

What does complaining accomplish? For years, I’ve read surveys showing that physicians are unhappy. They’re planning to retire early. Physician numbers should be declining. They won’t recommend a career in medicine to their students or family. Fewer students will choose the medical profession.

But, I don’t see increasing numbers of physicians quitting. Retirement rates have not gone up. The number of medical schools has grown. So has the number of students applying to medical schools.

I’ll admit that physicians are unhappy. If you ask any physician what they don’t like, you’ll get a list of 10 or 20 things that are wrong with “medicine.”

My question is this: What are we going to do about it?

What You Need to Know About Physician Recruiting Incentives

Successful Recruiting Depends on Optimizing Incentives

If you work for a large medical group or hospital system, you may be involved with recruiting physicians or negotiating employment agreements. It’s a set of skills worth learning because so many systems are on a recruiting binge. Salary levels have consistently grown at single digit rates for years. But the type and size of physician recruiting incentives have been more variable.

With the recent release of the Merritt Hawkins 2017 Review of Physicians and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives, I thought you might like a deeper review of that topic.

physician recruiting incentives to welcome candidates

When recruiting physicians and advanced practitioners (physician assistants and nurse practitioners), the primary determinant of success in attracting good candidates depends on:

  • Compensation offered;
  • Quality of life (location, hours, cultural fit, etc.); and,
  • Other recruiting incentives.

Monthly Leadership Favorites – June 2017 Edition

Trust, Risk, and What Leaders Do

It’s time for the VITAL Physician Executive’s Monthly Leadership Favorites – June 2017 Edition. In this feature I share inspiring and enlightening advice from respected leaders, generally from outside of healthcare (but not always).

Leadership Favorites – June 2017 Edition

This month’s favorites follow…

How Leaders Kill Trust

In 16 Ways Leaders Kill Trust, Skip Prichard provides a guest post by his colleague Bruce Rhoades. Rhoades lists 16 things leaders commonly do that erode trust in team members, including:

  • Micromanage
  • Publicly criticize
  • Overreact to mistakes

As Rhoades writes: “When a leader exhibits any of these trust-killing behaviors, it not only undermines the trust of the team member directly involved but also threatens the trust of other team members. Even when not done in public, the word will spread among the team and damage the environment for trust.”

To see the complete list of bad behaviors, with examples, check out 16 Ways Leaders Kill Trust.