9 signs that it might be time for a change

9 signs that it might be time for a change

Jan 01, 2007

Sometimes in the crush of busy workdays, it's hard to see the forest for the trees. You may have a vague feeling that things aren't right in your job, but you just can't put your finger on the problem.

Well, here's some help. Look for these warning signs that things are amiss at your practice. If you see yourself in these situations, take a step back and look for solutions.

1. Your diploma isn't on the wall. An associate can only be as successful as her practice allows; you need support. In fact, you should get the same support and respect your boss gets. If you don't, ask why. Does your team view you as temporary help passing through? A practice that wants to keep you will hang your diploma on the wall, print your name on the door, and offer a staff that respects and helps you.

2. Your work eats up more than 30 percent of your time. There are 168 hours in a week. If you work 30 percent of them, that's about 50 hours. That leaves you 118 hours for the rest of your life. Subtract 60 hours for sleep and brushing your teeth, and you get 58, which is a bit more waking time away from work than at work. Any less than this, and you enter the burnout range for most people.

It is entirely possible to earn an above-average income working 40 hours a week—lots of your peers do it. Medical practice is like drinking from the Great Lakes: No matter how much you drink, there are always more patients out there than you can see, so set limits and live by them.

3. Your significant other starts feeling insignificant. Everyone has had to cancel a dinner date for an emergency patient. If it happens occasionally, that's just part of the job. But if you're constantly late or you regularly cancel personal appointments because of work, something's got to give. Even worse is the case when you can't make personal appointments at all because you have no idea when you'll be done at the office.

Your job should have a starting time, a lunch break (with no surgery or phone calls!), and a finish time. Time management becomes a lost art if you don't practice it.

4. Your boss sees all the good clients. Clients may voice their preference for doctors, but that's just a preference. What you want is for your boss to tell the pet owner, "Dr. Newbie is one of the best new doctors out there, so I'd like her to look at Rexie. If you still want me to, I'll examine him afterward." If you don't get that kind of support, I'm not sure how you'll ever learn your craft.

When it comes to surgery, I often see the convoluted logic that because you are slow, the boss does surgeries, especially the hard, long ones. Sure, you're a crummy, slow surgeon, but we all were once. If you can't hone your skills on the job, you'll soon become slower and more incompetent. That's not a good thing in a general practitioner.

5. Your credit card debt is growing. You probably graduated with some pretty sizable debt, but after a while it should begin to decrease. Of course, you need to be frugal and defer your new Mercedes for a while, but such basics as rent and groceries shouldn't come hard after your first six months or year in a job. And you should be putting aside some savings for retirement.

If you're constantly worrying about your finances, review your salary and personal spending habits. Are you being paid what you're worth? Are you being extravagant? An accountant or financial advisor can help, and the fees for their services are well worth the improvement in your financial picture.