I haven’t been on a job interview in years, so I didn’t really know what to think when I found myself getting ready for one a few weeks ago. Since giving up traditional practice, I’ve worked in a variety of part-time and locum tenens primary care situations. I’ve also done part-time work in several emergency departments. I’ve worked directly for hospitals and also for staffing companies hired to populate the ED. It really doesn’t matter where my paycheck comes from – patients are patients and we care for them the best we can.
Due to a couple of regional shakeups with ED staffing companies and posturing by competing health systems, I recently found myself without a place to hang my clinical hat. My own hospital has decided that unless you are board certified in emergency medicine, you can no longer cover the ED (unless you’re a midlevel provider — then you’re OK to work as many shifts as you can cover.)
I find it ironic that they’d rather have a nurse practitioner straight out of training then a seasoned physician who happens to be certified in a non-emergency specialty. It’s less ironic, though, when you understand the real reason, which is as it always is, the bottom line.
Anyway, to take any kind of leave of absence is a pain. Unless you have an active practice address, you’re expected to surrender your state controlled substance license. They won’t let you just transfer it to your home or to an administrative office. I know this well because I got caught in the trap before and it took months to untangle. We received a 90-day notice that our contracts would be ending, so the race was on to find new positions.
Unfortunately, there were about a dozen other physicians in the hunt. Most were looking for full-time positions, though, so I had a bit of an edge being willing to work the odd shift here and there rather than needing a primary income.
I also have the edge of being sassy and single, which means I don’t mind working holidays or providing late-night coverage. In fact, I like the late nights. Usually the nursing staff has a better sense of humor and there are definitely great stories that come out of the ED after 11 p.m. As long as it doesn’t interfere with my CMIO duties, I’m up for it.
In a turn of serendipitous events, I was cold-called by a recruiter who was given my name by a friend of a friend. He vetted my profile using LinkedIn and thought I might be a reasonable candidate. A local urgent care was preparing to open a second location and needed additional coverage while they recruit full-time staff. Just my speed: low acuity, reasonable patient volume, not a terrible commute, and fair pay. And so it was that I found myself on my way to a job interview.
I explained my situation to the owner – that I have a full-time job but enjoy seeing patients on the side and am looking for a way to continue doing both. He asked me a lot of questions about being a CMIO. We talked about his PACS and the patient education system.
I became a little suspicious when the questions about standalone e-prescribing systems started, so I finally just asked what system they’re using. He kind of laughed and told me not to worry, the learning curve is about 30 seconds. I wish I could have seen my face when he handed me the clipboard.
I haven’t used paper in what seems like forever. Even during downtime I didn’t do formal paper documentation, but rather took a few notes to document in EHR later. I suppose it’s probably like riding a bike, although I think the combination of computerized PACS and discharge system with paper charting might feel a little strange. Part of me decided I wanted to work there just to see what going back in time would be like. At least they use templated paper forms, so it’s not like I’ll be writing SOAP notes from scratch.
I start in a couple of days, picking up a few hours after work one night to get used to the system while they’re fully staffed with other physicians. I’m most worried about getting to know the staff, figuring out the informal processes that aren’t documented anywhere, and trying not to make rookie mistakes.
I admit I’m a little nervous, though, not to have the backup of prescription error checking and clinical decision support, not to mention the convenience of e-prescribing. I had to dig through my storage area to find the leather prescription pad holder I received as a medical school graduation gift. Maybe to go full circle with the old-school vibe I’ll have to get myself a fountain pen.
Here’s to new adventures and hopefully a slow first shift. I’ll let you know how it goes. The monogrammed white coats have already been delivered, so there’s no turning back. I hope everyone stays well, but if you happen to find yourself at an urgent care with a sassy physician carrying a hot pink clipboard, you might want to do a double take.
Email Dr. Jayne.