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Physician Career Pathway Expectations Require Elastic Healthcare Practice Environments

Once upon a time a doctor first attended 3 or 4 years of college, then finished 3 or 4 years of medical school, trudged through 1 to 8 years of residency training to hang out “a shingle,” and finally begin to practice medicine, usually in solo practice.  Those days are long gone.  Time has expanded—schooling and training are longer.  Breaks are taken between and during this once but no longer traditional pathway.

The medical field has expanded.  Knowledge and technology have changed rote memorization learning of material to learning how to learn over a lifetime of expected change.

Expectations for a full life have expanded.  Younger physicians don’t want to lockstep their way through their career and their lives, looking neither left nor right.  They expect more choice and options.  They expect work-life integration to fit a much longer career arc, often punctuated by several career moves and personally gratifying journeys. 

With this expansion, experimentation in one’s career path has become a natural process.  Learning new skills is a constant; adapting to new environments is mandatory.  But is the healthcare workplace environment ready to adapt?  Probably not as well as it could or should.

Here are five critical ways the modern healthcare workplace can adapt to this rapidly evolving healthcare workforce:

  1. Provide an environment that accommodates trial and error—the new physician is going to expect to have opportunities to grow and change the shape of his or her work.  Environments that foster individual career growth will attract and retain loyal, productive and innovative physicians.
  2. Provide support services—make sure the physician has what he or she needs to create a comfortable pace, undertake an appropriate workload, work on a preferred schedule and assume roles that will best fit both short and long term goals.
  3. Build an environment that uses accountability partners—using an expanded concept which includes mentoring and networking, everyone needs to be inter-connected and has a stake in one another’s successes.
  4. Create an environment where team building is critical to success—working in tandem with others and building something that is greater than an individual’s contribution will go a long way to retaining top talent.
  5. Invest as much in the person as in the technology—electronic medical records, robots, and other fancy new technology is costly, but replaceable.  Committed physicians who hold institutional memory, capture patient loyalty, and maintain a stable referral source are much more costly and more difficult to replace.

Physician satisfaction is highly correlated to better patient care outcomes.  Creating an environment that builds on the expectations and experiences of the new physician workforce brings value to the organization or institution, to the physician, and especially to the patient.


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