The transition from resident to attending: Setting the stage for your new life and career

You’re finally at the point in your career that you’ve been waiting for! Training has been strenuous, and you have spent many years of your life readying yourself professionally for this moment. It is now time for you to transition from a resident to an attending physician.

At this time, you may be tempted to jump right in and start working.  I recommend taking a little time off for yourself first. After all, you just spend years of your life rigorously working towards the moment when you could transition into an attending position. If you are moving, give yourself a couple of weeks to get to know your new surroundings. Cory Fawcett, MD, Co-Author of Career and Life Planning Guidebook for Medicine Residents, states, “you’ve been working very hard and likely seeing little of your family for the last few years.  Reward yourself and them with some quality time.  This time can be focused on rest and recovery before you begin the next phase of your life.” Take time to get to know yourself again and recharge your batteries. Stepping into a new position feeling fresh and rested will make you the best doctor you can be!

When negotiating your contract with a new hospital, it would be wise of you to ask them if they will help you with moving expenses. Many employers will pay for all or part of the cost it takes to move you to their area. Before you leave, it’s also a good idea to make a list of all the professional and personal places that will need to be informed of your address change. As you notify these places, you can check them off your list. It will also make your life more convenient if you scope out a new doctor, dentist, etc. ahead of time. I would, personally, recommend choosing a doctor that is separate from your practice so you may keep your personal health private.

Before you step into your new position, you’ll need to apply for a state license or conduct research on the licensing procedure for the state you will be living in. This process can take quite a bit of time, so it’s a good idea to start as early as possible! Complete the forms as efficiently as possible, and don’t forget to register with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Oftentimes, the process of applying for a state license takes longer due to the references. As such, it’s a good idea to ask your attending for a reference ahead of time; you can help them write a great reference letter if you provide them with your CV. Make sure you are credentialed with insurance companies and don’t forget medical malpractice insurance!

Now you’re ready to go to work! From the get-go, ensure that you are a doctor that is known to be Able, Affable, and Available. Doctors that meet these criteria are known as “AAA” doctors. This means that you are an approachable doctor that knows how to do your job well, and you make yourself available for anyone who needs your expertise and help. Having these qualities will guarantee you happy staff and patients!

Keep in mind that, even though you are now attending, you are still quite new! Take a few weeks to scope out the other doctors in your building and find an “AAA” doctor to serve as your mentor. This person can be the person you go to for advice while you’re still getting comfortable and learning the ropes. Wambui Waruingi, a neonatologist, testifies to the importance of a mentor when she advised, “don’t underestimate the need for a good mentor to help you work through all of the non-clinical aspects of the position.” In addition to finding a good mentor, you may be tempted right away to jump into extra obligations. While it looks good to take on new responsibilities, keep in mind that you’ll want free time for yourself and family outside of your career.

As you get busier in your new position, remember that your wellbeing is of utmost importance. This includes your physical, mental, and financial health. Sort through your bills and prioritize the repayment of your student loans; the sooner those are paid off, the closer you will be to financial freedom. Set a budget that will allow you to pay your bills, save money, but also have some fun along the way! Avoid making any big sweeping purchases that will hinder you from saving and paying off your current debt. This is also a good time to look into life insurance to potentially protect your loved ones in the future. And, most importantly, reconnect with the hobbies and things you enjoyed doing before medical school. After all, you went through years of studying and hardship to ensure a better life for yourself and loved ones; now is the time to enjoy what all that hard work earned you.

Todd Skertich is managing partner, Arlington Healthcare and founder, Adventures in Medicine and Physician Career Planning. He is the author of The Art of Physician Negotiation and can be reached on Twitter @adventuresinmed.

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