This weekend, I’ll be participating in a SEAK conference in Chicago on the topic of non-clinical career progression training for physicians. SEAK has been in business for 30 years, has trained over 20,000 people, and among them, over a thousand practicing physicians. The instructors have successfully migrated to non-clinical careers, the more common payer, provider, pharma, consulting and vendor sectors, but also to politics, government, finance, and the arts, literature, and recruiting worlds.
I was on faculty last year and presented healthcare informatics career opportunities, with a focus on related corporate roles. My presentation incorporated notes and tips on the differences in skills, knowledge and talent required in HCIT as compared with clinical careers. Career management, including understanding and exploring opportunities, is more important than ever given that clinical careers are changing wildly. See Mark Hagland's excellent piece on this topic. My 2009 observations and related presentations are available here:
Epic Career Moves - Step One (contains 2008 Informatics presentation by Dr Tonya Hongsermeier)
Epic Career Moves - Step Two (contains my 2009 presentation)
Epic Career Moves - Step Three SEAK 2009 observations
Epic Career Moves - Step Four - AMIA Edition (contains another presentation)
This year, I’m honored to be participating as a mentor. I will be posting my observations after the conference.
So, Why Did I Choose to Pursue a Clinical Career?
My interest in becoming a physician followed a common theme during the 1970s. I was intrigued by the opportunity to have a career that concurrently combined a) problem solving in the scientific realm, b) helping people, c) having a high degree of workplace autonomy, and perhaps an implicit desire to d) achieve an extra measure of societal acceptance.
Loved going to work: There are, of course, multiple ways to do any and all of those four. That said, my volunteer work at Maryland's Shock Trauma Unit during my undergrad program cinched it. I loved the drama, the acute care and the esprit de corps amongst the clinical team. I loved the patients and their families. In short, I loved going to work.
The dark side of practice: But as I began clinical clerkships, as I did my residency and subsequent fellowships, I saw the huge, recurring problems. Things that should happen in a systematic, reliable fashion didn't always happen that way. There was a lack of integrated, clinical information systems, of course. There was also a lack of procedural systems. There were no checklists that were shared, performed as a group, or published as best practice. There was an absurd reliance on human memory and human tenacity. In short, I was uncomfortable going to work, in part because I wasn’t confident the delivery systems where I worked could function reliably. Every time a patient took an unexpected turn, I asked myself, as every physician does, did I miss something? There was no safety net.