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Charting a Successful Career Path in Anesthesia

November 28, 2020 | 6:10 pm | Info Articles
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There are many professional and personal issues to examine when you are seeking to improve your employment conditions. Or, just to overcome what some anesthesia specialists know as “imposter syndrome” where negative patterns of thinking, such as believing others are more talented than you, you’ve somehow fooled everyone else into thinking you’re competent, you don’t belong in a respected or highly skilled group, or your achievements and accolades are undeserved. Personal decisions and intangible effects on your family must be considered along with a variety of professional issues.

African American woman anesthesia specialist waiting for job interview

The imposter syndrome pattern of thinking can cause pervasive anxiety, frequently contributing to physician burnout. It is more commonly experienced by women and people of color, but it’s rare for any physician to be completely immune. Fortunately, unlike other causes of physician burnout, there are ways for individuals to overcome imposter syndrome and build a healthier relationship with their self-worth.

Recognize and question your thought patterns – Some experts suggest surrounding yourself with people who see your value and explicitly remind you of it. However, be careful as this sometimes can in fact trigger self-doubt. But you can choose to end this cycle by becoming mindful, and critical, of your thought patterns. The simple act of noticing thoughts and patterns can create distance, giving you the space to develop a more rational, realistic perception of yourself and your value. Try to see the situation from an outside perspective, and with practice, you’ll be able to perceive yourself more accurately and give yourself the credit you deserve.

Identify and emphasize your strengths – As you begin noticing and questioning your thought patterns, provide yourself with evidence to disprove their validity. Be intentional about recognizing your strengths and accomplishments. At the end of each day, write down or reflect on the top three things you handled well or achieved. Remember, those to whom you may be comparing yourself to are very likely having the same inner conflict, despite their polished exteriors. It may help to list out all your achievements over the years and write down everything you’ve worked hard to accomplish. Turn to this list when you feel self-doubt creeping in as emphasizing your accomplishments builds resilience and confidence that fights physician burnout and makes you a better caregiver.

Understand that valuing yourself improves the quality of your care – Your medical training likely taught you to be compassionate to your patients, but highly critical of yourself; med school and residency often revolve around comparison and competition, with a focus on your deficits and not your strengths. And of course, in such a high-stakes environment, the pressure to be perfect can be nearly impossible to ignore. But succeeding as a full-time anesthesia specialist means building collaborative relationships with colleagues and developing bonds with patients who trust you. And patients can tell when their physician is full of self-doubt. When you invest in breaking the cycle of imposter syndrome and perfectionism, you’re also investing in your patients and committing to providing them higher quality care.

What to Know When Considering a Job Change

There are some important issues to consider when beginning the process of looking for a new position. First, there are critical questions to ask and then develop a pro and con list of the top reasons to stay, leave or change jobs. There are reasons to leave a job, and then there are separate reasons to choose a new job.

Compiled by Yvon F. Bryan, MD, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Vice Chair for Faculty Development, Department of Anesthesiology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Daniel J. Forest, MD, Assistant Medical Director, Obstetric Anesthesia and Assistant Director, Office-Based Anesthesia, Piedmont Triad Anesthesia and Joseph M. Bryan, BS, MBA, President, CEO, Investments Tucson, here are just a few of some suggested top questions to start with on how one should consider looking for a job.

  • Why do you want to leave your current job? Alternatively, are you a resident seeking a new position and need to leave your current employer?
  • Are you unfulfilled in your current job and do you desire new challenges that are unobtainable in your current position?
  • What is the actual process of looking for a new job? Do you start by looking through employment agencies, use word of mouth, and/or contact old friends or past residents about opportunities in their groups?
  • Are the conditions so much better at the new job that no matter what the old group offers you will not stay? Make sure you are not interchanging old problems for new ones.
  • Will the job be there long term as an established practice with a long history and good reputation, or is it a new practice?
  • How many opportunities, if any, does one have to grow within the company and either become a leader or have decision-making capabilities?
  • What will be the effects on my spouse/partner, family and friends?

It is evident that there are many questions professionally that need to be considered before one can examine whether or not to make a change. These issues need to be clearly delineated and prioritized. Also, feeling valued is an incredibly important aspect of any job, and if your value is not realized then you should feel confident about your desire to explore other options.

Weighing In on Personal Considerations

There are certain choices that ultimately combine both professional and personal factors. Moving to another city has benefits, as sometimes a fresh start is both welcomed and needed. However, there are also downsides with moving, including unfamiliarity with the area, the cost of real estate, and uncertainty where your children should attend school.

Another decision involves the difference between traditional and nontraditional jobs. Traditional jobs can be described as being a clinician practicing the profession of anesthesiology. Nontraditional jobs may be described as jobs that are unusual or removed from clinical care. Choosing which alternative is best is a very personal choice.

Anesthesia medical groups are usually a dynamic environment and adapt to new situations to stay competitive. Thus, expertise in areas outside of medicine, such as having an MBA or other professional qualifications, is very helpful.

Coronavirus Update for Anesthesia Specialists

The COVID-19 pandemic has made job searching and moving a lot more difficult, and very different, for a variety of reasons. The pandemic has resulted in the loss of jobs and incomes, forcing anesthesiologists to act as different types of clinicians (e.g., members of airway or line teams, assisting in the ICU with ventilated patients, or in some cases, being furloughed). The future is still strong and prosperous for anesthesiologists as the choices and options for a successful career are continuously expanding.

As you map out your future, be true to the questions and points that are specific to your own goals and develop your own top 10 list to a fulfilling and rewarding career.

 

Sources:

Imposter Syndrome and Physician Burnout: 3 Tips to Beat It. healthgrades.com

Professional and Personal Factors to Review When Considering a Job Change. anesthesiologynews.com