You are done with Med School, Residency, and perhaps have established yourself in private practice or with a really great healthcare institution.
Despite that, you’re still on the treadmill of loan balances, patient loads, and long hours, and trying to have some semblance of a life. It’s a LOT. But, money makes the world go around, right? Maybe it’s time to determine what is most important to you in a compensation package.
Loans, Loans, Go Away…
The pervasive assumption that the average doctor compensation is more than adequate has made it difficult for physicians and other medical professionals to get a leg up on their burgeoning student debts.
It’s estimated that the average med school debt (including undergrad) for someone who graduated in 2015 was about $200,000. Compounded with interest, at the end of the loan term, that’s going to double and that is overwhelming to many new practitioners.
If you are considering joining a new practice or institution, ask about including medical school debt payoff as part of your compensation package. There are also programs like debt forgiveness based on willingness to practice in rural or inner city locations among other options, or IBR (income-based repayment), where it is possible to have loan balances satisfied or at least make them manageable so they don’t grow over time.
Finding a Life Amid the Chaos
Work/life balance has become a buzz term, but it is grounded in truth. And, it particularly applies to those working in a high stress/high risk fields like Medicine.
You already know the 40-hour week is a myth. So, how do you find enough time for yourself and still give your job and patients 100 percent?
Obviously, there’s no easy answer to this problem. It doesn’t matter if you’re a family practitioner or working the floor in an ER — there are going to be circumstances that make it difficult to leave work behind. To stay healthy and sane, you have to be able to do just that. Do you desire greater flexibility as part of your compensation?
Locums work is always an option; it offers a higher rate of pay (in most cases), one-offs and other opportunities for a nonconventional work schedule. It would certainly free you from a lot of the excess paperwork that goes with being in your own practice. If you enjoy working in new settings, a changing environment and the flexibility to work when you want to – this could be an option. It’s not for everyone as it requires tremendous financial and personal discipline; but if you’d prefer to “work to live,” then it might be a viable option.
If you want to stay the course you’re on right now, building boundaries is perhaps the most important key in keeping your work/life balance in check. Don’t be afraid to say no — in fact, practice it. Remind yourself that you deserve time to separate and recharge. It may be hard to start with, but by slowly building your boundaries and learning to switch off at the end of your workday (and on those rare days off), you’ll find your time away from work to be a much-needed reprieve.
Monsters in the Waiting Room…
Have you ever interviewed at a practice or facility and wanted to run screaming? (or gone to your own facility and felt that way?) It’s probably happened to many more than just you.
Sometimes, it’s the “vibe” you pick up when you walk through the door —a jam-packed waiting room, run down facilities or a surly office staff – even a glaring shortcoming, like an unwelcome reputation for taking short cuts or worse.
Those toxic environments might pay well, but is it worth it? Maybe a lower salary but a happier place to go every day is a better idea for you. Only you know what you can stand and for how long.
You’ve earned the right to work in an environment that fosters best practices, manageable patient loads and cutting-edge medicine. Avoiding burnout is critical to long term success. If you’re not, you aren’t being true to yourself. Checking out practices on sites such as Glassdoor can give you employee views on everything from health violations to excessive workloads — two of the many things you want to avoid.
Nothing is forever
It’s important to remember that your compensation requirements will change as your lifestyle changes. In fact, recent studies show that physician compensation will rise in 2016. Despite a good forecast, maybe now a good combination for you is lower wage with a place that offers exceptional experience and reputation like a teaching hospital. Later, maybe a suburban practice will be more your style.
Don’t be afraid or feel locked in to a situation that becomes untenable. Your compensation comes down to a few simple things — a salary that you find to be fair, finding a solid work/life balance – whatever that means to you, and a working environment that gives you the opportunity to grow while you practice the best medicine possible.