A Hematologist, Dr. B, was working in academia at a university in Ohio. Between the clinic and the classroom, her schedule was packed. The time she did spend at home with her young children was often spent writing or reviewing papers. She was regularly published in medical journals and was on track for a full professorship, but at what cost to her family? At what cost to her mental health?
It wasn’t only her young children that caused Dr. B’s search for a better balance. Her parents, who lived in Pittsburgh, visited often, but their ability to make multiple trips each year would diminish with age. And what would happen when they eventually needed her help? How could she care for them while living so far away?
All of this was on Dr. B’s mind when she saw an email about a physician job opening from Senior Director of Recruiting Sally Ann Patton. The Medical Director opportunity appealed to Dr. B’s need for challenge and growth, and the location was ideal in proximity to her parents.
The Pursuit of Work-Life Balance
Dr. B reached out to Sally Ann, who immediately recognized that Dr. B. was more than qualified. However, Sally Ann wondered if this highly lauded physician from the world of academia was serious about a position with a rural hospital. While the “Medical Director” title carried some prestige, there would be no publications or accolades in the role. The focus would be largely clinical. While there would be some management responsibilities and the potential to serve as a mentor, would this be enough to satisfy a physician like Dr. B?
Although Sally Ann had some initial reservations, the more she learned about Dr. B’s present situation and her desire for a better quality of life, the more Sally Ann began to see how it might work out to be the perfect fit.
Negotiating the Physician Contract
During the on-site interview and community tour, the hospital leadership and staff adored Dr. B and did their best to make her feel at home. She enjoyed her visit, and after spending a few days in the community, seeing several neighborhoods and schools, she began to picture a life there.
Imagining herself in the job was one thing, signing a physician contract was another. Dr. B pushed back on the facility’s first offer, and Sally Ann and her contact at the facility went back and forth on several rounds of negotiations. In the meantime, the hospital was acquired by a nearby university system. This complicated the contract’s progress, but Sally Ann thought the facility’s new ties to an academic institution would make the job even more appealing to Dr. B.
As contract negotiations continued, the hospital’s medical director officially resigned, making leadership at the facility even more motivated to come to an agreement. Dr. B’s motivation was intensifying as well. That fall, her mom suffered a health scare, shining a light on one of the primary reasons Dr. B wanted to relocate – to be available for her parents.
Identify the “Why” and Keep Coming Back to It
The story demonstrates the importance of understanding the reason “why” a physician candidate is considering a switch to rural medicine. Is it the slower pace of life? Leadership opportunities? More meaningful work?
Dr. B’s reasons were clear from that first conversation with Sally Ann. However, she needed reminders along the way. “I just kept bringing her back to her why,” Sally Ann explains. “When the logistics seemed complicated or the contract still wasn’t right, I’d say, ‘Remember why you are doing this. For your kids. For your parents. For your peace of mind.’ She needed to focus on that to keep moving forward.”
A Win-Win for the Community and Dr. B
Throughout the process, Sally Ann was never entirely sure it would work out, until one day in late December, it finally did. “In the end, she got nearly everything she asked for,” explains Sally Ann. “She is earning far more than they initially offered, and with the new ties to an academic institution, she could easily get back on track for a professorship, if that’s what she eventually wants.”
With the contract signed by all parties, Sally Ann felt tremendous satisfaction. “It was an especially fulfilling placement for me,” she said. “The community desperately needs good physicians, and now, they are getting one of the best.”
“It’s just like it says in our mission,” Sally Ann continues, “We strive ‘to improve the lives of everyone we touch,’ and I really felt that with this placement. Not only will Dr. B’s life improve, but she will have a tremendous impact on the lives of everyone in that community.”
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