Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Professional Development

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 5, 2012

“How can I get a job at a University?” A fellow, about to launch, in nine months, that is, into the world, seemingly fearful of leaving a University life that he has known for over ten years. I remember that feeling, I think to myself. High school, college, medical school, residency, child fellowship, is a long journey before having a “real job”. It makes sense to want to find employment in the system that one has “grown up” in. I suppose it is similar to not wanting to leave home after high school. The familiar is hard to give up. New adventures are exciting and scary at the same time. Today is career day, where seasoned professionals, such as myself,  come to talk to UCLA Child Psychiatry Fellows about their journey. Each year is a bit different. I anticipate being asked abundant questions about private practice, but instead, this group of ten, wanted to know about employment opportunities. Once again, I was taken back to my years in training where the idea of working for oneself was the ideal. Autonomy was held in high regard. Now, at least with this crop, steady employment, with benefits like retirement and health insurance seem to be more attractive. Security seems to trump independence. I understand this and I do not understand this. I can certainly appreciate the value of knowing that your paycheck is flowing at a steady rate. I can also appreciate being taken care of, in terms of retirement and insurance needs. Yet, I also remember the excitement of thinking that after so many years of being told how to practice medicine, that finally, finally, I could make my own decisions. I could be my own boss. Yes, my adage continues to be that ‘I am self-employed and I hate my boss,’ but this is only a half-truth. I also love my boss. I love that I can practice in a way which makes sense to me on a very deep level. I can listen to my patients, without concerns for “productivity,” which is often measured in medical practices these days. I can take the time to appreciate the inner workings of people, in the context of family and school systems. No one is rushing me. That is worth so much. Maybe these students need to be tossed around in the world of employment to want to break out into an independent way of doing things. Or, maybe these students will continue to cherish the security of employment. I do not usually get follow-up, but I can hope.

2 Responses to “Professional Development”

  1. Shelly said

    Seeing as you’ve had both experiences, working both independently and for the University, you can give advice to the fellows on each side of the divide, the pros and cons of both. These fellows want the safety and security of working for an organization that will take care of them and their futures for a few years so they can relax and not have to think about mortgages, pensions, and private school tuitions. Self-employment is scary. Don’t forget your blog of late July-early August of this year! Where have all your patients gone…I seem to remember you worrying……? Perhaps these fellows have read your blog and simply don’t want to have to worry about it either….? Self-employment is not for those not willing to take chances; remember, you have the best of both worlds since you are both self-employed AND work for the university.

    • You are right, Shelly. There is no question that the uncertainty of private practice is a huge challenge. My concern, on a more global level, is that medicine, in general, is moving to a more robotic exercise, and the love and passion for creative thinking is slowly withering away. I hope that is not true, but that is my fear. Thanks.

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