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2 Significant Magazine Articles


The list of the Best Companies to Work For provides physicians with a number of helpful tips to improve their work lives, and those of their employees and colleagues.

Career Ladder

The first was Forbes’ annual billionaire issue. In spite of there now being 1,645 of these tycoons in the world, yet again, I failed to find my name on the list. I hate it when that happens. Bummer….

Of more significance, and practical use to us all, is the Fortune article on the “100 Best Companies to Work For.” If you are one of the lucky docs to land in one of the 5 or so big health employers on the list, good for you. But even if you are not, there is ore to be mined there worth smelting (the strained metaphor still lives).

Specifically, there are lessons for docs, both as employers and as employees, to improve the quality of your work day, thereby increasing retention, improving patient care and the all-important bottom line. There is more to patient care than science, and we all learn, usually as a surprise to us, that patients have radar for the mood and vibe in their doctor’s office.

The first lesson pointed out in the article is that “The true measure of a company is how they treat their lowest-paid employees.” Without going into specifics, this point is profound. For that matter, how do you, your family and friends, treat the hotel maid, the car valet, the janitor and etc.?

Another way they put it was “The best companies are firing with live ammo. We all know that it’s not (just) about the money. But it’s not not about the money either.” e.g. — The greatest workplace still has to keep afloat financially, so you do have to stick to your knitting and not get caught up entirely in Silicon Valley-esque pool tables and free food.

On that subject, have you considered scheduling drug reps every day to bring lunch to your staff? I’ve done it and can be a plus. You do have to sing for your supper and smile for a few minutes while the drug reps do their dance, but, hey, you might actually learn something while enhancing morale, keeping staff on site and saving all concerned time and money.

There are other cost-free ways to enhance the workplace. One exec quoted in the article pointed out that, “The biggest perk is opportunity.” Even if you have a small office, make it clear to your staff that additional training, good ideas, and ambition will be valued, rewarded and can be stepping stones to promotion.

Another vital workplace enhancing, and therefore money saving and making, idea that I have written about before is “Hire friendly and train technical.” Hiring character, judgement, and personality, especially in a small office is critical to success at every level you can monitor, morale to bottom line. One bad apple will spoil your barrel and is darn hard to correct.

Larry Page, a founder and current CEO of Google, the No. 1 company on the list, has some additional useful suggestions. He reminds us that work consumes one-third of our day, one-half of our waking hours and that our work lives can and should be more than a means to an end.

We in medicine are lucky in that regard, but it doesn’t hurt to stop periodically amid our daily hustle and bustle and remind our staff, and ourselves, that we are doing good, and well.

It’s tough for docs, who are trained to take personal responsibility for everything, to trust your people. But, if you have hired well, the habit of delegating will be good for your stress level, their sense of pride and your patients’ wellbeing. Give your people a voice and some space to grow into. They will almost always surprise you positively.

Page goes on to say that you will find it easier to trust your staff if you only hire people “…who are better than you.” Try hiring by committee, set standards, and periodically review to see if your new hires are better than your old hires. Do not compromise for expediency. It always, and I mean always, backfires if you do so.

Page has so much useful to say in this regard that I am going to stay with his suggestions through to next week’s column. See you then.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice