Friday, February 4, 2011

Greener pastures

Many of us who spend the majority of our time in military medicine see private practice as so much better. No inspector general visits, no “working for the man” and no threat of deployment. We often feel as though, with meeting access demands, completing medical evaluation boards and fulfilling all the required military training (frequently on our own time because of patient care demands) with no end in sight, we are on a hamster wheel.. But, as two of my good friends have discovered, the grass is not always greener!

One of my friends, a physician, left the military to join a large group practice connected to a large hospital. He enjoys the time off, choosing his own hours, and the increased time he haswith his family, but he is considering rejoining the Air Force, because he senses something is missing. There is no camaraderie within the practice, and he misses feeling that he is serving a greater purpose. He still has pressure to see patients and sees changes to insurance reimbursement limits as potentially detrimental to private practice. He also realizes the impact of walking away from the retirement money. As he puts it, “I still work for the man; it is just a different man and I get to choose the clothes I wear to work!”

Another friend left the military just a few years short of retirement. She was dissatisfied with future assignment opportunities and wanted her spouse to have stability in his non-military career. After a recent move, she struggled to find a job. Medical-provider positions are not typically listed in a newspaper and she almost resorted to going door-to-door or hiring a headhunter. Now, working in a practice she enjoys, she can still tell stories that would make most of us military medical members’ toes curl! She discovered the medical assistant wasn’t wiping her exam tables after every patient, and my friend recently returned to work after a vacation to discover she was double booked and, because a colleague unexpectedly needed time off, had been volunteered to take on that provider’s schedule.

So, on those days when I feel like the hamster wheel is more challenging than usual, I remind myself that the grass is not always greener. When it comes to medicine, you can change the clothes you wear to work or the “man” you work for, but that elusive “perfect” job or practice may not exist. Sometimes, you have to find the “perfect” where you are and focus on that; and hope you don't fall off the wheel!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI).

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