Every Doctor is a Clueless CEO

One disappointing reality faces many doctors soon after they earn their degree(s). At some point, usually when looking for that first coveted job, or after they’ve spent a few months in the workplace, it dawns on them: All of the institutions that educated and trained me to be a competent physician failed to teach me the business basics needed for a successful medical career.

Sound familiar? In this blog article, we’ll explore the most important step to take before beginning your search for a career in medicine.

First, ask yourself: What about my career is most important to me? Is it getting a great salary and paying down debt? Moving to the city of your dreams? Working for a great hospital? Or perhaps starting your own practice in the city where you trained?

Next, evaluate what skills you were equipped with to better understand these questions. Tough one, right? That’s because such skills training barely existed in our education. We weren’t taught how to evaluate our jobs and career opportunities, effectively plan and strategize for the future, manage a practice, lead a team, or even communicate correctly. And we certainly were not taught about finances or many other aspects of the business side of medicine.

The lack of effective training in these critical skills causes all young doctors to flounder as they go about their daily lives.

You are not alone.

I’ve been where you are. I floundered as much as anyone but was lucky to find a good practice and location that suited my family and me. After wrestling with business-related questions for about 15 years, I entered an Executive MBA program and earned my MBA. That academic knowledge, much of which had direct applicability to medicine, plus what I learned in the school of hard knocks proved very helpful to the rest of my career. A few years ago I was inspired to write a book, now called The Business Side of Medicine…What Medical Schools Don’t Teach You, which imparts these lessons.

Back to my question: Where do you start?

In short, the best thing to do before anything else is to plan, and for the long-term – five to ten years out, not merely the next year or so. Involve your family in this planning process because their happiness will be vital in making your first career location your last.

Develop a vision for your family and you. Project ahead ten years and, to the best of your ability, make sure your first set of decisions will help to get you to where you want to be. Long-term planning informed by a vision, and followed by a strategy for fulfilling that vision is the blueprint forward. Easier said than done, right?

By coming to the Physician’s Edge, you have already started the process of rectifying the neglect of your academic training. During the next few months, I will write a series of blog articles that will cover much of this territory in abbreviated fashion. My blogs will hit the highlights but necessarily cannot cover the detail that you will find in my book.

Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.

Thomas S. Harbin, MD, MBA is a Board Certified Ophthalmologist specializing in glaucoma and related diseases. His undergraduate degree is from Vanderbilt University and his medical school degree is from Cornell University. He is the author of The Business Side of Medicine…What Medical Schools Don’t Teach You which summarizes all the pertinent courses of his two year MBA and adds lessons learned from practicing, running a big group and chairing a hospital system. Connect with him at www.tomharbin.com or on LinkedIn. For more information on the book please visit The Business Side of Medicine.

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