HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — While the money we make for the work we do is important, we must always remember to maintain perspective as these four vignettes reveal.
A top interim physician CEO, a JohnGSelf + Partners team member, did not start his career in medicine. He was an accountant who earned a CPA but came to realize that it was not satisfying work so he asked his father-in-law, a physician, what he would advise. His father-in-law responded that being a doctor was wonderfully rewarding work, one of the best decisions of his life. But do not do it for the money, he advised. Do it for the rich rewards you gain by helping people.
With a growing shortage of physicians, especially in primary care, the demand for doctors will only intensify over the next 10 years, prompting some organizations and recruiters to throw money at candidates in hopes of beating off overtures from other hospitals. Do not fall prey to the money pit game of can you top this. In the end,physicians are akin to any other top employee — it is not always about the money. Benefits, the life-work balance, and how they are valued by their employers is even more important. Cash cannot buy physician contentment or loyalty, at least not for the physicians you would want to have on your staff.
A general surgeon who practiced his entire career on the East Coast without a malpractice lawsuit, or even a hint of litigation, said that if something went wrong, honesty and doing the right thing were his guide. If he made a mistake, despite advice from some risk managers to the contrary, he apologized. He said the apology made the difference. Meanwhile, he said that he avoided the worst risks of making an error by avoiding cases taken only for the money. “I have learned that physicians who focus on the money never have enough and are rarely satisfied with their professional lives. Those who stay focused on the patient and the mission of why they entered medicine, are happier and typically just as financially secure.”
Recently, a CEO, engaged in negotiations for his employment contract renewal, was relentless in trying to get the best deal (read: the most money possible). He wanted to be in the top 3 percent of other CEOs at similar sized hospitals. Several members of the medical staff served on the board. They had a front row seat to his continuous demands. The irony here is that the CEO had just pushed back on increasing physician compensation, in a couple of cases, fairly substantially. In the end, the CEO got his money but lost the respect of his medical staff leadership. During the often rancorous negotiations he seemed impervious to the physician board members sensitivities. They, in turn, did not turn a blind eye.
How we deal with compensation issues tells those around us what our true values are.