Job offers and Sisyphus


Call brings me no compensation

I struggle with documentation

I might sound like a boor

But our EMR’s poor

And a source of great irritation.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  In May 2010, I left my position of 23 years, and honoring my non-compete clause, traveled for a year doing locum tenens work.  In June of 2011 I joined up with the Community Health Center, which provides care for the underserved.  I’m now working part-time, which, for a doctor, means 54 hours a week.

 I’m starting to get wanderlust again.

Most days bring 6 to 10 job offers, some permanent, most locum tenens (temporary or substitute).  I look at locations and I fantasize.

Places interest me.  A spot in Wyoming evidently has terrible problems recruiting, I’ve received very good offers for the last 10 months.  Indian Health Service has a trouble filling positions as well.  Veterans’ Administration, Armed Forces posts, and Bureau of Prisons chronically seek physicians. 

The one that piqued my interest the most this week was Nome, Alaska, partly because I just finished Michener’s Alaska and partly because I worked in Barrow.  I wouldn’t really take the job because they want Family Practice with Obstetrics, and I swore off delivering babies on May 7, 2010.  Nor do I want to work more than 2 air hours from surgical backup.  Still it looked like a really, really interesting gig.

Ireland keeps sending me information about “hot jobs.” 

I have no interest in cities, not even exotic cities like Albuquerque or San Francisco, though I might consider something in the Denver area because of family and friends there.  For some reason Wisconsin has fallen completely off my radar screen.

I don’t much look for pay rates; still I’m impressed by some of the figures I see.  Bottom lines upwards of $300K come occasionally, but what really catches my attention are the offers of extra money for taking call. 

Bethany and I had such a great time in Alaska in the winter and New Zealand in the fall. 

While I can still remember the absolute euphoria of coming home and seeing familiar faces and sleeping in our own bed, I can feel myself starting to find fault with my current job.  I have begun to dwell on the call for which I receive no compensation and the hours of documentation I do outside of work hours.  The electronic medical record system (EMR), horribly inefficient to start with, irritates me more and more every day.

And if I miss too much sleep I find judgmentalism creeping into my thoughts.  Hospitalizing the same people for the same problems (which come down to bad lifestyle choices) makes me feel like Sisyphus. 

Yet I really enjoy my coworkers, the morale of the clinical staff runs consistently high, and I like doing hospital work.  A lot of docs don’t.  Thus electronic and regular mail recruiting touts “all outpatient” in capitals with several exclamation points at the top of the page.

The clear ability to walk away from a job gives me tremendous negotiating strength.

Unlike Sisyphus, who had been condemned to eternally roll a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll down just before it reached the top.

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2 Responses to “Job offers and Sisyphus”

  1. Charlie Miles Says:

    Hey Dr. Steve,

    It sounds like you need to get a change of space and responsibilities for a little while longer than a two week vacation.

    Even though you are not working the hours you did in private practice, you do get in a grind that most 60 year old men don’t have to go through.

    Perhaps slowing down to 80+ hours a week isn’t enough, or you just need to find a way to do the doctoring you prefer to do without the hassles of the “non” paperwork etc. Not practical is it?

    So few people really seem to get to do what they really want to do.

    Of all the people I know, I have the highest hopes for you being able to figure out what that looks like for you and Bethany and then grabbing onto it!

    I certainly wish you the life and happiness and fulfillment that you want…what is that exactly???

    I really enjoy your posts and read every one.

    Best regards my friend!

  2. walkaboutdoc Says:

    Thanks, Charlie. I realize that my idea of vacation is a 40 hr work week. My current situation would be pretty good but call is awfully heavy; when I started call was reasonable and now it’s not. Our practice has grown a lot since I joined (I’m far from the only reason). I like inpatient and outpatient, and taking call keeps me on my toes. There are a couple of fixes we’re talking about, and, after all, it’s not like the other docs in the shop are groaning under the stress of 4 admits and dozens of calls a night.

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