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The Watering Hole – October 2020

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The Watering Hole is a rundown of news, tips, trends, and ideas for medical professionals who are looking for zebras in their careers.

These are the articles that I’ve found most interesting and informative over the past month, and want to make sure that my readers hear about them, as well.

Today’s edition of The Watering Hole covers finances, getting what you want out of your medical career, dealing with legal issues and other challenges, and where to start if you think you’re ready for a job change.

Physician finance and compensation

Medscape released their Female Physician Compensation Report 2020. I’m not as passionate about addressing the gender pay gap as many other female physicians I know. But I felt my eyes widen when I saw the current differences in pay between men and women physicians:

  • Women in primary care earn an average $212,000 per year, compared to $264,000 for men
  • Among specialists, women earn $286,000 per year, while men earn $375,000 per year on average

These are differences of 25% and 31%, respectively.

I enjoyed reading about Xrayvsn’s realization that he exceeded his neighborhood’s social class benchmark in Oh Crap! I Am The Joneses. I, too, live in the nicest house in my small, unincorporated neighborhood, though it is well concealed behind a long driveway in the woods (which I drive down in my 2007 Toyota Corolla). My takeaway is that it’s OK to be a Jones. It’s what you do with that “status” that matters.

Just be certain you’re not becoming a Jones by being overpaid through Stark law and anti-kickback violations or questionable arrangements in which you’re compensated way more than fair market value. Read more about recent settlements of this type in the Medpage Today op-ed Feds Should Crack Down on Docs Who Make Too Much Money. (Note: You may need to log in to read this.)

Speaking of legal issues, did you know that proposed legislation would change the definition of “physician” to include clinical psychologists?

Other laws – both current and proposed – have the potential to erode the medical profession to some degree. Lawmakers make it difficult for physicians to practice medicine by Rebekah Bernard, MD goes into more detail on this in a Medical Economics spotlight.

Medical education

Getting back to finances for a moment, I’m sure you’ve been reading a lot about the educational debt piling up for today’s undergrad and graduate students of all types. I applaud the hospital systems who are working to address this for the healthcare professionals in their areas. Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine and School of Nursing are distributing nearly $4.2 million in community service awards to students in the Inland Empire. And St. Luke’s University Health Network is offering over $175,000 in tuition assistance to medical students who agree to pursue a primary care career with them.

Practicing medicine

As a 3rd year medical student, I hopped on the bandwagon and bought a pricey pair of Dansko clogs to wear on the wards. I ended up finding them to be fairly uncomfortable and ditched them as soon as I graduated. I understand the attachment that many docs have to them, though. So I appreciated Dr. Leti Alto’s story After 4380 days, a pair of Danskos—and a calling—fall apart on Semi-Retired MD.

I love hearing stories of doctors and healthcare professionals who successfully overcome challenges to get what they want out of their career. This month, I was moved by Dr. Widian Jubair’s story, Twice a doctor: After fleeing Iraq, physician starts anew in America.

Have you started feeling bored at your job? You don’t necessarily need a job change. Tired Superheroine shows us How to be endlessly fascinated by your work.

Nonclinical jobs

Registration is now open for the Physicians Helping Physicians virtual conference Your Next Steps in November. If you’re considering transitioning to a nonclinical job, this conference has a ton to offer. You’ll get loads of information on nonclinical careers via group coaching from physician coaches and physicians who have transitioned to a non-clinical career. You’ll get help with your resume, negotiating, Linkedn profile, interviewing techniques, and assistance for your own unique situation.

In certain cases, it’s entirely appropriate to essentially ask for the job while you’re still at the interview. US News has some solid suggestions on how to do this tactfully in 10 Ways to Ask for the Job at the Interview.

A number of Look for Zebras readers have recently expressed interest in medical editing, which I wrote a Q&A post about. I’m happy to share even more info on this topic: Dr. John Jurica of the Physician NonClinical Careers Podcast interviewed Dr. Jennifer Spector in the episode What is it like to be a medical editor?

Provider burnout and wellness

A lot of doctors are perfectionists. Self-proclaimed perfectionists, even. Dr. Amelia Bueche’s KevinMD article Done is better than perfect. The enemy of good is better. is a must-read for any doctor who’s been held back by trying to make things perfect.

If you haven’t heard of Stoicism, Dr. Suneel Dhand’s quick read Stoicism: An ancient philosophy the world needs right now for our wellness is worth a minute of your time. He reminds us that “instantaneous emotional responses” are bad for our wellbeing.

I’ve been working to change a couple of habits in my life recently. I, like many people, find this difficult. Heather Fork, MD of Doctor’s Crossing recently wrote about her takeaways from the book Atomic Habits which was just the inspiration I needed to double down on working on my own habits.

I wish all of you a great October! Keep looking for zebras, knowing what you’re worth, and working on your atomic habits.

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