Fear and Loathing on the Interview Trail

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As we strive to provide the most advanced care possible to our patients with vascular disease, there is one area of our practice that stands out as being as archaic as cellophane wrapping of aneurysms: the process of finding a job.

Instead of an enlightening quest to find the perfect practice, many graduating vascular fellows have found it to be a tiring and laborious process. The excitement around the opportunity to finally do what we have trained so long and hard to do has been eclipsed in frustration by a disorganized and antiquated interview process.

The business side of medicine has very much been on display in the popular media with the institution of new healthcare reform legislation. No financially viable business would fly a client halfway across the country to find out if they’re a ‘good guy’ prior to discussing a potential deal. This should not be the routine in medicine, either.

I implore vascular surgeons to utilize technology to modernize the process of expanding their practice. Replace the ‘good old boy’ and device rep networks with posts on the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) Job bank. Loose the recruiters and write a concise description of your current practice and what you have to offer. Replace the mandatory meet and greet first interview with a video conference via SKYPE. This will obviate the need to clear your schedule for the day and shelve the awkward interview in the operating theater.

A colleague of mine has equated interviewing for a vascular surgery job with trying to buy a used car without knowing the price. Even if it requires a non-disclosure agreement, opening the books to a prospective partner early in the interview process is vital. In addition to demonstrating integrity and building good will, it validates your case mix and volume. Without this knowledge, an applicant cannot make an informed decision to join a practice.

Most importantly, be professional. If a candidate is not what you’re looking for, be straightforward and tactful. Communicate; don’t string someone along in case another prospect falls through.

For those of you who are getting ready to or are still looking for your first job- do your homework. Converse with your faculty members, get in touch with the local device reps, and talk to former fellows about your job prospects. On the interview don’t hesitate to pull the ancillary staff aside for their opinion of the group. One of my co-fellows did this and learned that the surgeon had not booked a case in the operating room for six months. The hospital administrators confessed that they were interviewing to replace the surgeon, not hire on a partner.

There are a multitude of resources available to arm yourself when it comes to contract negotiations. Read “The Physician’s Comprehensive Guide to Negotiating” (SEAK, Inc.) by Steven Babitsky and James J. Mangraviti, Jr. I obtained a copy through interlibrary loan and read it in two days between cases. It is well worth the small time investment.
Call your institution’s physician contract liaison to review a sample contract and gain access to the MGMA physician salary survey. Remember these data includes responses from vascular surgeons in both private practice and academics and may not reflect your true market value. Talk to the fellows who graduated before you to get an idea of what range of offers are out there.

Attend regional and national vascular surgery conferences to network and gain leads. The SVS young surgeon’s forum at the annual meeting is a good introduction into the job search process. The most comprehensive review to date is the Mote Vascular Symposium put on by Dr. Russell H. Samson’s group out of Sarasota, FL. Beg, borrow, or steal the weekend off to attend this meeting.

Our goal as graduating fellows is to not only provide exceptional care to the patients with vascular disease in the communities we join, but to modernize the practice of our partners. Whether this means an aggressive endovascular approach to aneurysmal disease or overseeing the redesign of the practice’s website, by virtue of training in the information age we are well prepared.

Every page of this newspaper is geared toward making us better vascular surgeons. So please, let’s start by bringing the interview process in to the 21st century.

Christopher Everett, M.D., is a Vascular Surgery Fellow, year two, at the Greenville University Hospital Medical Center, Greenville, SC.

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