Utilization of Unique Talents

Now that you’ve identified personal attributes or activities that you have a special gift for or make you feel very good about yourself, the obvious question becomes, “so what do I do with this knowledge”?

All self-knowledge has great intrinsic value. The better we know and understand ourselves, the more peace of mind and self-confidence we feel. This is not just to our benefit but also aids our patients, colleagues and support staff.

There’s a tendency in our rush-around world to want some quantifiable product out of any initiative where we’ve put forth an effort. If the results are subtle, subliminal, or evolve slowly, impatience may ensue. Witness the busy gyms in January but the return of normal usage by February as an annual example.

Reflect on this new understanding as it applies to your current life and work situation first. Even a minor difference in perspective may make your work life much more tolerable. And, even if you still wish to pursue new ventures, it may allow you proceed at a more graded pace, and handle subsequent transitions more gracefully.

My experience is that only a small percentage of physicians want to move their lives in significantly different directions. The vast majority are much more interested in working in the same milieu though with a different mindset, or working in the same or similar institutions in a role that is some blend of what they’ve done previously and some new activity which draws more directly on their unique talent.

Taking the former scenario first, how do unique talents help to make day-to-day work activities more engaging? They draw your attention to qualities you have that other people around you admire, or to facets of your work life that give you deep personal satisfaction. You need to nurse those talents, whatever they may be. At least some part of your workweek, ideally some part of each workday should be focused on them.

An example. A woman physician in an academic department was regularly turned to by residents who were struggling. This was not part of her official job description. She thought it nothing special, and in fact was somewhat taken aback when the value of this role both to herself and her colleagues was pointed out to her. Highlighting this activity did a great deal to boost her overall professional morale. Interestingly, she specifically did not want any formal responsibility in resident education above her usual faculty duties.

For the latter scenario, how can one best get involved in new areas of professional responsibility in the practice or institution you now work at? Raise your hand. It really is that simple. I’ve never known any healthcare organization with an oversupply of physicians to serve on the wide range of committees, work study groups, or think tanks needed to keep any complex organization moving forward.

Not only are physician members often in short supply, only about 30% of physicians involved in organizational backroom work are truly engaged. I’ve seen attendance records that would amaze you.

Many physicians tend to be dismissive of administrative work. It’s often those same individuals who are the quickest to complain if there is some snafu, acting as if all the infrastructure and organizational details were put there by magic, and guaranteed to behave like clockwork. It’s a lot of work making the machine move forward each dayy.

Currently, the government pays for about 75% of healthcare, and this number is likely to increase. More government= more regulation. Ernest Hollings, recently retired from the Senate had this to say about government regulation: “Letting y’all regulate yourselves is like delivering lettuce by way of a rabbit.” He wasn’t specifically speaking about healthcare, but I like the quote!

On the plus side, this opens up great opportunities for physicians wishing to test out their liking for some new arena of potential interest. Moreover, the range of opportunities is pretty well endless. You have strong IT skills and are not a great people person? We can use you in developing electronic medical records. Your bent is towards people, you are a thinker-philosopher by nature; how about the ethics committee?

Get a list of the institution’s committees, see what might fit best, pick up the phone. You’ll get signed up. Show up and be involved, you’ll be loved. Think of it like dating. It can take a while to know that he or she is the right one for you.

You may, of course, move beyond the dating phase and want to get married. Now you have a whole new scenario to consider. Are there opportunities at your existing workplace or a nearby institution, or might the timing be right to consider a move to another locale altogether. These are exciting considerations but you’ll make such moves with much greater confidence having first tested the water close to home.