All Articles Clinical Career

Where Are You On Your Job’s Food Chain?

It’s Important To Know Your Position At Your Workplace

You are either a self-employed physician with your own practice or you have an employer. If you have your own practice (an urgent care, a family medicine practice) then you can easily gauge how well you are doing by your income, your return patients and the general comments you hear from your patients. “Dr. Mo, I’m so glad you are my doctor, I feel very comfortable with you.” or “You know, just because you are a doctor doesn’t give you the right to treat people this way, you should be ashamed if yourself!”

Dr. S and Dr. E, The Self Employed

My very first shadowing assignment in my 2nd year was with Dr. Stern, a passive aggressive and unhappy man. Tall, slender and from a top-notch medical school and similar residency. He was running his own practice for over 10 years now and his wife was the office manager. I had never ever seen the flow of an outpatient clinic until I shadowed this doc. And the very first remark I recall from Dr. Stern was “I can’t believe she didn’t bring her own oxygen tank and wants to use mine, she is doing it to save money!” This was followed by him going back into the room (after already being done with the visit) and admonishing her for not bringing her oxygen tank. 

And then there was Dr. Egelsee, even though his practice was bought out by a large medical group it had for years been a private practice. He was energetic, kind, thorough and never appeared stressed or rushed. He joked around and was just a pleasure to be around. I later got to work with him on inpatient medicine and sure enough, he was just as strong clinically as he was in personality. But, enough about my man-crush on Dr. Egelsee.

Your Position As An Employee

So, if you are a privatized doctor you likely know whether you are a Dr. Stern or a Dr. Egelsee. If you are an employee it’s not so easy to know where you stand. It’s important to know because it will either allow you certain freedoms or it may limit you quite a bit. Obviously, if you are the cranky, passive aggressive, argumentative and unhappy clinician then you likely know what you can and can’t get away with. You are probably on a very short leash and know that any poor behavior on your part will create a complaint from another clinician, your staff or a patient. You probably will think twice before even chewing gum. 

On the other hand, if you are for the most part kind, friendly, energetic and hardworking then it’s time for you to enjoy the perks that come with being this person. You may not know it but your supervisors certainly do, your staff likes working with you and patients enjoy interacting with you.

Smaller and medium-sized medical groups will reward you for this either financially or with better hours or perhaps with better chance at RVU’s. Larger medical groups are less likely to increase your salary but they will offer you or give you the opportunity to take on leadership roles which will give you a little more admin time and thereby increase your pay-per-hour-worked.

The Danger Of Being An Unliked Clinician

If you are the former you should know that there is always someone in the organization that is just looking for an excuse to get rid of you or throw you under the bus. This will perpetuate even more stress than you are already creating for yourself. As an example, you may have just said something to your nurse that wasn’t quite rude but wasn’t quite nice either. The nurse will then think you be a b*** and start being difficult for the rest of the night. She may inadvertently instigate your patients before you walk into the room creating constant fires that you have to put out. Then of course you get more upset, your patients sense it, you say something definitely not nice to your nurse. She then turns around and complains about you to her supervisor who already is tired of hearing complaints about you. Your physician supervisor is then notified and the story after being told multiple times gains momentum and all of a sudden instead of you just having told your nurse to “Stop being lazy!” turned into you spitting on them, kicking them to the ground and using a racial epithet.

The Perks That Come With Being Dr. Nice

If you are the latter you can generally show up a little later at work, you can call in sick a little more often than your colleagues, you can get away with blocking some patient slots for whatever reason you can come up with and you will likely get that last-minute vacation you requested. The reason as to why this is the case should be obvious and though you may not care to take advantage of it the perks are nevertheless existent. Your staff will stand up for you, your patients will be kinder to you should you make a mistake and your supervisors will be far more lenient because they want to keep you around.

How To Go From Dr. Grump to Dr. Fun

You don’t have to be this upbeat, attractive and eloquent physician to be in the latter category. I can think of 2 clinicians in my practice that are neither but I assure you if something happened in their life the organization would do whatever it takes to help them work around it. There are very few and basic things you need to do/learn to be the successful group. You can learn both of these from 1) charm school 2) sales techniques.

Both of these may sound silly. However, they are not only widely taught by some of the largest and most successful organizations out there but also proven to be effective. There are plenty of podcasts, free websites, paid websites and courses that you can participate in to learn both of these techniques.

The Art of Charm


So, do you know which kind of physician you are?

Are you aware of colleagues that have no sense of being disliked at their job?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.