As ophthalmologists work to carve out their individual career paths, one common theme will undoubtedly emerge: One size does not fit all. This concept likely rings even truer for those just beginning the job hunt. Fresh out of training, young ophthalmologists are often left to navigate the market with no real-world experience and after having spent years in school being told when they would see patients and what they should do. Then, suddenly, they face a slew of challenging decisions regarding their futures.
Having been there myself, one insight I can offer new ophthalmologists is to ask yourself: How do I see myself fitting in to the existing workplace and what do I see for myself in the next 12 months? According to Lauren Simon of The Eye Group, an ophthalmic placement firm, location will dictate where you want to practice and ends up being an important, if not the most important, consideration based on you, your partner, or finding a partner. This is especially true of younger surgeons today, and, more recently, opportunities in primary markets are offering higher starting salaries as maturing ophthalmologists are planning for exit strategies. There are other factors adding to this, as there are also more people who want to work fewer hours. That is coupled with the fact that there are not any more people graduating; in fact, there are 10% less residents than there were 10 years ago, yet the patient population we are serving continues to grow.
Once you have an idea of where you want to be in the next year, you can move on to: Where do I see myself in 5 years? For example, you should consider whether you see yourself wanting to be a partner in a practice.
The mindset of younger doctors today is vastly different from that of the baby boomer bosses and practice owners. People now want a very customized experience. Because of the recession that millennials grew up with and their formative experiences, there is a major emphasis on quality of life. They also seek greater balance. Today, “full time” is not what it used to be. Full time for baby boomers and older was 60 to 70 hours a week, whereas now it is more like 50.
THE HAPPINESS EQUATION
The strongest predictor for happiness and satisfaction among physicians is the amount of awake time they spend with their mates daily. You must take this into consideration when you are working. Whatever you do, your level of happiness, even work happiness, is strongly linked to how much awake time you spend and how happy you are with your mate at home. Some of the top reasons for burnout are the number of hours worked and experiencing a work-home conflict.
When setting out on your path, remember that one size does not fit all, either professionally or personally. There are many different types of practices, personalities, and desires. We must continue to ask ourselves, and balance: What can I do to add to a practice, and can I see myself happy in such a setting? What about 5 years from now? Question where you see yourself, and commit to creating a plan to get there.