Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A lesson from your patients – negotiate

Author: Robert F. Priddy, President, third_Evolution

How many times have you said to a patient, “it would help if you would lose about 10 pounds,” only to have the patient respond with, “but I only put on two pounds since my last visit…”

To most physicians there is absolutely no congruity between being told to lose 10 pounds and responding with, “I only gained two.” How do the two fit together?! For you, it’s incongruous, for the patient it’s simple negotiations.

Physicians too often deal in absolutes whereas patients deal in shades of gray. Consider Kubler-Ross’s stages of death and dying… You’ve just told a patient he has cancer. What’s his reaction – no, it can’t be true. You say it again and his response becomes, no, and I won’t accept it – it’s not fair… followed by how can we work around this… What is your patient doing? He’s negotiating.

During the course of these negotiations some good things can happen. First, you can understand him better and you can understand how he will deal with this diagnosis. How much denial, how much anger, how does he bargain, how depressed, and finally, what is “his” acceptance.

Consider the same as you embark on career change. Whether you are following a networking path (usually the most successful for physician career transition) or simply trying to apply for the gazillion jobs posted (for which there are about 10 gazillion applicants for each posting) on the internet, the people with whom you speak are going to challenge your interests, challenge your skills as they apply to a nonclinical role and challenge your reasoning. You will consider many of these people to be experts – much like your patients consider you their expert. However, when these experts use your lack of direct experience, or your medical degree as opposed to an MBA as reasoning for why you can’t or shouldn’t transition to a nonclinical job, you can either accept their assessment, or you can negotiate.

Working with physicians for 30 years, I’ve found they too often will simply say, “I met with a vice president and she said she’s never heard of a physician doing the job I want… it must not be possible.” The expert has spoken, and the physician who has been taught that without the CME, without the fellowship, without some specific documented training, he/she can’t perform a procedure, the physician uses the same reasoning to say, “I guess I’m stuck practicing medicine – I can’t do anything else.” Wrong. Negotiate.

In the spirit of Kubler-Ross, deny and bargain, save your anger for private moments, don’t get depressed and never, never resign yourself to acceptance. Now is the time to pull out all the stops and deny this person knows what of they speak. Then bargain and negotiate. If you’re engaged in such a conversation, it’s because you believe (or believed up to this point) you could do this job. Refocus the person away from your medical degree and towards your skills and your accomplishments. Frame your skills as they would relate to this job setting and define your accomplishments in business terms – showing the connection between managing a patient’s illness, for example, and managing a business process, reviving an “ailing” product line, for example.

As you meet and speak with executives, you’ll find many studied law, accounting, engineering, anthropology, English, philosophy and many other disciplines. They all made a shift in their career focus, and they all use their backgrounds to their advantage. You can do the same.

About the author:

Since 2002, Bob Priddy has coached, counseled and advised more than 900 physicians seeking non-clinical career transitions or restructured clinical practices; and he is President of third_Evolution, Non Clinical Careers for Physicians. Prior to third_Evolution, he served in physician practice management and consulting roles on both a local and national level, in senior health system administrative and operational positions with four health systems in the East and Midwest, as well as in senior administrative, marketing and product management positions with leading healthcare IT and marketing firms. Bob is an entrepreneur who knows Physicians, healthcare, and nonclinical industries. His coaching and advising approach is outcomes-based centered on the concepts of Focus, knowing what you want to do; Package, having the right materials to represent your career search or your new business venture; and Process, developing and implementing a logical strategy for your success. Read about him here.

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