For some reason, it is likely that no one with gray hair ever sat you down and shared with you some secrets to longevity, productivity, and career success in medicine. Why we in medicine tend to “eat our young” remains a mystery to me. If you have seen the movie 300 or read the book Gates of Fire, you understand that we tend to act very “Spartan-like.”

I am not advocating a certain manner of practice, nor am I suggesting you should sacrifice quality of life in return for career achievement. Rather, this column is meant as food for thought about whether or not your behavior and actions are limiting or enhancing your career aspirations.

I am not advocating a certain manner of practice, nor am I suggesting you should sacrifice quality of life in return for career achievement. Rather, this column is meant as food for thought about whether or not your behavior and actions are limiting or enhancing your career aspirations.

Over my 22 years of medical practice, I have been a stu- dent, a resident, an attending, an employee, an independ- ent contractor, an employer, and a practice owner. Some of the observations I will share here should be the things you digested at the dinner table along with your meatloaf while you were growing up. Others I learned early in my career by observing or through my own trials and errors. And a few of them are ones that I probably need to occasionally be reminded of.

Unfortunately, over the years, I have witnessed more than a few perfectly competent providers derailed by not adher- ing to modes of behavior that have nothing to do with vio- lating the Hippocratic Oath or applicable laws and employ- ment practices.

The following aphorisms are what I would tell someone who asked me how to be a team player, and practice conscientious, high-quality urgent care medicine while also advancing their career. They’re then broken down into examples of what I mean; when you read these statements, mark each statement with a “T” for true or “F” for false and see how you fare.

Practices want hard-working, efficient, reliable pro- viders to care for their patients. Are you giving that impression?

  • I show up for work before the start of my shift, I am never late, and never ask to lock the doors
  • I don’t call in sick unless I am in the hospital as a Medicine is a profession and professionals do not leave their patients, their team members, or the business exposed.
  • If I am forced to rearrange my schedule, I take it upon my- self to secure
  • I do not make patients wait for
  • I do not take personal, non-emergency calls during the work
  • I never answer a cell phone in the patient’s
  • I apologize for the wait when I enter a patient’s
  • Before leaving a room I ask the patient if there is anything else I can do for them and thank them for coming
  • I take the initiative to follow up on patients who I am afraid may fall between the
  • I do not stay late simply to get overtime
  • I embrace and comply with company policy, even if I don’t understand it or agree with If I have a concern with a pol- icy, I use the appropriate channels to address it.
  • I understand that every patient should be valued and that his or her time is
  • I seek out others and ask what I can do to perform
  • I can treat more than one patient at a time
  • I am not technologically
  • I ask the staff to initiate treatment while I am taking care of other
  • I complete the chart during the encounter, as opposed to af- ter the encounter or at the end of the
  • I use ancillary testing appropriately to support my actions and
  • I can multitask with the best of
  • I return patient or pharmacy phone calls
  • I don’t use the Internet inappropriately at work.

Practices want competent providers to care for their patients.

  • I keep abreast of journal articles and I attend CME events to stay at the top of my
  • I am very aware of the “high-risk” rule-out diagnoses and I treat and document
  • I am not afraid to consult my peers on patient care
  • I respond to quality concerns
  • I address patient complaints and concerns in a timely, thoughtful
  • I give patients informed consent prior to performing proce- dures or tests which are inherently
  • I do not get hostile or offended when a patient makes a choice to not follow my
  • I advocate for my
  • I learn how to perform procedures typically within my scope of practice, as opposed to sending everything to the emergency 

Practices want appropriately dressed providers to care for their patients.

  • I dress conservatively within the practice’s dress code while in the clinic or at the
  • I understand that “casual dress” does not mean jeans, san- dals, and a t-shirt.
  • I understand that how I look and dress reflects on my
  • I don’t walk around the office without shoes, in shorts, or tennis
  • I am clean shaven, have no exposed tattoos, and I do not have visible piercings, save conservative 

Practices  want team players.  Are you?

  • I volunteer for assignments and pitch in before being
  • I help my I am not above taking vitals, cleaning and dressing wounds, putting a sheet on a bed, or helping someone to and from their car.
  • I occasionally bring breakfast or buy lunch for the
  • I check and answer e-mail in a timely
  • I have been known to carry around a coffee mug or wear clothing with the practice’s name on
  • I have attended, and even organized, practice social events, community service events, or athletic
  • I don’t engage in malicious
  • I don’t shy away from the tough, dirty, whiny,
  • I don’t avoid rooms containing more than one
  • I don’t make a big deal about every perceived If up- set, I go to the source to inquire about it.
  • I don’t complain about the amount of work, the number of patients, or the pace because I understand that the patients pay my
  • I am not passive-aggressive—saying or agreeing to do one thing and doing another

Would you want to work with someone like you?

  • I am cheerful, optimistic and can maintain a cool head and good sense of humor even when the chips are
  • I don’t swear or tell offensive
  • I don’t share unnecessary personal information with my coworkers.
  • I say “please” when I ask for help and “thank you” after I am
  • I demonstrate empathy and compassion by my personal interactions with patients and
  • I help others without being
  • I am a good
  • I shower before work, brush my teeth after lunch, use de- odorant, and carry breath
  • I don’t smack my gum or chew with my mouth
  • I leave my personal crises at
  • I share interesting articles with
  • I demonstrate the adage, “I went into medicine because I care about and want to care for ”

Practices want well-rounded providers who behave appropriately in social situations.

  • I never drink to excess at any company
  • I dress appropriately for company
  • I am a good sport about attending company
  • When I am talking to a coworker at an event, I don’t ignore their significant
  • I don’t criticize the location, food, or music at company

Practices want providers who interact appropriately with staff.

  • I never snap or yell at staff
  • If I have a criticism, I discuss it in private with the
  • I generally refrain from blaming someone for a mistake, even if it is
  • I always remember to ask teammates how it is going, if they need help, or what I can do to assist
  • I understand that my employer is extremely worried about sexual, religious, and racial harassment so I am very careful that my behavior reflects that,
  • I am quick to compliment
  • I don’t make the staff preface every question or comment directed to me with my

I will guarantee the following: If you answered “T” to the vast majority of the preceding statements and you are actively working on the ones where you answered “F,” you are very suc- cessful, in high demand, and should be well paid for what you bring to the practice.

What the Gray Haired Never Shared

John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA, FACEP

Chief Executive Officer at MeMD, LLC, Mentor and Author at Outliers Publishing, Principal at Shufeldt Consulting, Founding Partner of Shufeldt Law Firm