Your Job Can Do Some Terrible Things To You
Like most of your doctors out there I’ve been bulldozed by my employer a few times, pushed around other times and forced into submission most of the time. Medical groups need conformists, not rebels.
I started working as a full-time urgent care doctor back in 2009, which is a 7 year career as of this writing, with another 2 years before that spent moonlighting from 2007-2009.
I have never been my own boss running my own business as a doctor so I don’t have much to compare employment to. This post is not about the grass being greener on the other side, it’s about the reality of being employed and how your job can push you around.
I had My Wages Lowered When The Economy Tanked
In 2008 when I was moonlighting the economy took a hit. I was getting paid around $80/hour by then doing mostly Family Medicine and Urgent Care. A couple of my employers, who were represented by the locum agency that hired me, decided that they would keep me on only if I accepted a pay-cut from $85 down to $65.
I gave them a polite middle finger because I had the luxury of having other gigs lined up.
In my time as a physician I never saw doctors getting laid off but I saw a massive nursing layoffs sometime in late 2008. Our medical group used the excuse that in order to be able to continue serving patients they needed to cut their operating budget.
I Got Strong-Armed By My Boss
I had an unpleasant interaction with my medical director about 1.5 years into starting the new job, involving an opioid drug seeking patient.
The patient was unhappy that he got his medication request denied by me, went to the charge nurse to complain who escalated the complaint to my medical director who happened to be working that night.
My boss threw a piece of paper with the patient’s name and medical record number in front of me, crossed his arms and asked why I wasn’t able to manage this guy’s pain? And why did he have to deal with it?
My boss also got the middle finger from me, though very politely. I was shitting my pants for a few days after the incident because I really needed the job at the time, or the income, I should say.
Nevertheless, it was a shitty experience which reminded me of my position in the food-chain.
I Got Denied A Part Of My Bonus
5 years later I decided to change locations within my medical group, from California to Oregon. My bosses were okay with it, they thanked me for my years of service and accepted my gracious 90-day notice.
A couple of months later I got a curt letter in the mail from the board of directors expressing their disapproval with me leaving and not having given them a notice on top of notifying my immediate bosses. In order to punish my behavior they decided to keep 30% of my bonus for that year.
My middle finger went up again. in the form of a colorful letter to the board of directors. This came to bite me in the ass a few months later, thankfully nothing serious.
I Was Lied To About My Paychecks
On multiple occasions I was shorted on my paychecks back in the California job. I would get my paycheck, see that the hours I worked and the hours I was paid didn’t match, would have to go through my schedule day-by-day to figure out exactly what shift was missing in order to notify HR.
I couldn’t just tell HR that “Hey sucka! You shorted me on my paycheck, fix it please!” Unless I identified which shift I was shorted for how many hours, I wasn’t gonna get the money. And the money wasn’t paid to me immediately, it would appear on the next check, 2 weeks later.
In 2015 I started work with the new medical group in Oregon, worked my ass off like I usually do, picking up a ton of extra shifts. Their record keeping was so confusing that I had no way of being able to figure out what I was and wasn’t paid for.
I knew I was being shorted, just had no way of proving it. So I sent emails to every damn person I could imagine. I got the runaround, I got the silent treatment, I sent more emails, I got idiotic answers and finally and suddenly my next paycheck had a ton of extra pay on it – bollocks.
I Was Threatened
In my admin role I was responsible for several affiliate clinicians (NP’s, PA’s). There was a particular PA who was incompetent, had a lot of patient complaints, was slow and ordered more blood tests and imaging than any of her colleagues. All the other good clinicians were complaining about her to me and so I needed to do something about it.
I approached my chief and the union director because I knew her to be smart about trying to play the victim role, we started the process of writing her up and either helping her change or helping her to move on. Apparently she’s been on everyone’s radar for some time but due to the amount of work needed circumventing unions, she was just left alone to float as the parsley leaf in the toilet bowl.
Long story short, after a few meetings with her along with her union rep and manager, I received a grievance notification saying that I was harassing her. Not only did my bosses completely abandon me but they also added it into my “file” even though I was the medical director and I was encouraged to get her to either improve or let her go.
I Got Denied My Raise And Advancement
Finally, now that I have requested to return to work I have found out that because of my absence and my issues with that PA, I am not advanced to the “senior” status.
The senior status is similar to making partner or advancing levels at other medical groups. The reason it’s important to advance is because it provides job security, a raise and better benefits.
No Need To Quit Your Job Because Of Bad Experiences
The reason I write about these things isn’t to say that you should throw your arms up and just walk out because you are being treated “unfairly”. Nobody has a gun to my head, nobody physically abused me, nobody raided my home or took a dump on my doorstep.
These are normal things that employees experience. Sure, you can make a big stink about it and keep banging your head against the wall but in the end it’s a choice one has to make, stay with the job and understand its shortcomings or leave it for something else.
I am writing about my experiences in these past 7 years not to complain and whine. It has been great overall, I’ve made a ton of income, helped a lot of patients and learned a lot.
But it’s important to recognize that there is a trade-off and if you always remain in a position of needing employment to support your household’s expenses then you will always be at the whim of your job.
Don’t forget, our industry hasn’t hit a glitch in a long time, and hopefully it never will. The emergence of HMO’s and the ACA were the main game-changers in medicine but most of us remained well-paid throughout the process. Banking, automotive, technology, law and the food industry all have had their major crashes and gone through cycles. I believe medicine will eventually get hit with a major change, sooner rather than later. It’s important to be in a place of being able to choose.
Work On Financial Independence
You can become financially independent and continue working.
You can have enough money to live off of and not use it.
You can put yourself in a situation where you can be retired and not actually retire.
You can downsize your life to reach your financial goals and later inflate it to fill the parts that feel empty.
You can save enough to be able to pay off your mortgage with a click of a button but keep making payments for the write-off.
The point is that if you even just taste independence you will know what I am talking about. Even if your student loans have a low interest rate, even if your mortgage is something you are okay having for 30 years, consider becoming completely debt free. Taste that freedom and I’m sure you’re not gonna spit it out.
With financial freedom comes a new level of standards. Certain behaviors you were okay with before you simply won’t tolerate any longer. Not from a place of being high and mighty but from a position of choice.
Being able to more clearly define your boundaries in your home, at your work, with your bosses etc., means that you can grow as a person, you can make better decisions that are better for yourself and those around you.