Friday, November 18, 2011

Get Ready for Work-Related Travel in the Business World of Medicine

I'm writing this in the airplane (thanks to GoGo in-flight Internet) and I'm on my way home. This year, I've had a number of different work-related trips that have taken me to New Orleans, Boston, Baltimore, Phoenix, Palo Alto, Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, Dallas, Orlando, San Francisco, and San Diego. This year was a heavy travel year where I averaged 1-2 trips per month. Most of the time, I was gone for 2-3 nights, but I had an occasional trip where I was gone for a week. Some of those trips were speaking engagements and others were business meetings and conferences.

In the business world, executives travel all the time. There are some people who travel a few times each week. Other people may have 2-3 trips per month. Some folks are gone for 2-3 weeks at a time, especially if they're doing any international travel. During my travels, I run into people who have flown over a million miles and most have elite status on major airlines.

How does this type of lifestyle compare to work in the hospital? If you're single and you don't have a family, then you may enjoy the travel, but don't forget that you'll still be expected to keep up with your regular work when you're on the road (or in the air). So, after you've worked those long, exhausting days on the road, the evenings in the hotel room are generally busy work-nights where you'll be catching up with emails, working on documents, and getting ready for the next day.

If you have a family, then consider your current working schedule. Do you take call? Do you work overnight shifts? How often do you work over the weekends?

Transitioning into a non-clinical career may not necessarily lead to a better work-life balance. Your quality of life will probably change if you enter the business world, but that QOL may not be better if you don't enjoy being away from your home. There are many jobs that don't require you to do any travel, but most of the physicians I know who work in the business world do some level of travel each year. If you hold a high-profile executive position, then you're probably going to be on the road more frequently.

Before you accept a new job, make sure you have a clear understanding of the travel requirements that accompany that position. When they say you may be traveling 30% of the time, anticipate being gone 7-10 days per month. Or, here's another way to think of it: you'll be traveling 100-120 days each year.

As this year wraps up, I hope that I won't need to travel too much next year. I may still average a short trip each month (or hopefully every-other-month). I'll be attending a few essential conferences, but I plan to limit my other travel so that I can spend more time at home.

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