Dr. Mary Mason, MBA ~ Leadership Speaker & Consultant

What We’ve Learned from Physician Training

What We've Learned from Physician Training

For most physicians, our first real job after medical school is being an intern or a resident in a hospital.   We have all seen the movies and TV shows that glamorize sleeping in the hospital call room every other night or coming face to face with great patient challenges and dilemmas.    But reflecting back on my intern and medical residency days, I am keenly aware of some great practices that doctors in training use to get through life and death situations.    And as a physician with an MBA who has lived in both the medical and business world, I see their relevance whether it is your first ‘real’ job or if you are a senior executive.

Here are some great practices to take from the world of academic medical training and apply to everyday situations in your workplace.

1.  Work as a team

On the first day of internship and residency you are assigned a team that you will work with during that “rotation” or month.  Usually a team will consist of an attending physician (the boss), chief or senior residents (your bosses too) and medical students who you must supervise.    Everyone on the team has duties that must be completed each day in order to insure that patients admitted to the hospital are taken care of properly and discharged from the hospital at the appropriate time.   In order to give the highest quality and best medical care, it is important for everyone on the medical team to pitch in and help each other, especially when there may be unexpected issues that occur with patients assigned to your team.   Silos do not work well.   Never does someone saying, “ That’s not my job.”

2.  It’s your job is to make your boss look good.

The attending physician is ultimately the doctor who is accountable for the care being given to patients in a teaching hospital.    But residents who have more years of experience are also the bosses of the new interns who just graduated from medical school.   If an intern tries to show off for the head attending physician and make their supervising resident look bad, word travels fast throughout the medical training program.   Many new interns do not realize that not supporting their senior residents can greatly impact their reputation and can lead to trust issues with other residents in the program.

3.  Respect your co-workers

Just like a new group of employees attending orientation at a new company, medical interns and residents come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and have had different college and medical school educational experiences.    Learning about your fellow team members and co-workers not only allows you to understand and respect those differences, but call upon them when help is needed.  For example, it was also great to know what languages other physicians on the team spoke in case it was needed to understand a patient’s history.   And often some of the best lessons I learned were from physicians who may have grown up or were educated in other countries.   Or sometimes it was great to know that a fellow physician team member was great at putting in central lines, in case you were having difficulty with the procedure.

4.  Help your co-workers in need, even if you are not expected to help.

When I was a resident, being on call for the night shift was often unpredictable.   You might get lucky and get some sleep.  Or you might be up all night admitting patient after patient from the emergency room.   I will never forget a resident who happen to be assigned to a quiet service for the night and could have easily retreated to his call room while I was overwhelmed with multiple admissions and a service full of sick patients.    Instead of getting a good night sleep, he stayed up all night with me helping attend to the sick patients while I admitted patient after patient to our medical service.    Even after 25 years, I am still telling that story and whenever he needs any favor, I am always there to assist hm in any way I can.

5.  Dedicate time each day to learning

Many new employees think that once they graduate from school, their days of studying are long gone.   If you have to move ahead your career, that Is not true.   Even after long grueling days, the most successful physicians in training go home and read up on their patients.   There is always something to learn whether it is chapter in a medical text book that you want to re-read or a new journal article with exciting new concepts into your patient’s disease or condition.   Making this a habit in the business world to read up on the current issues you are facing in the workforce can pay off with more responsibility and promotions.

Whether you are wearing a business suit to the office or scrubs to the hospital floor, employment at the beginning of a career, whether executive or physician, look very similar.  Navigating a new organization, new managers, new rules and new expectations can be overwhelming.   But taking the time to be a team player, who respects their co-workers and bosses, and learning about the business issues you face after the clock strikes 5, will make you successful in the workplace, no matter your career path and goals

While taking lessons from young doctors who are navigating the demanding environment of a busy academic hospital may not seem intuitive for those in the business world.  But it may be just the cure for problems you encounter everyday in the conference and board rooms of your company offices.

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