What I didn't learn in med school

Med school isn't business school. 

Before I even began my career as an orthopedic surgeon, I'd gone through more than a decade of higher education. I'd overcome hurdle after hurdle to get there: getting into a competitive undergrad, studying for the MCAT, late nights in medical school and grueling hours of residency. I turned my brain into a Latin dictionary, optimized my routine for maximum efficiency every minute of the day, leveled entire forests for textbooks and flashcards, and wore out half a dozen pairs of shoes darting around hospitals in residency. So I was, of course, ready to be doctor once I completed my training. 


Not necessarily. And neither were my peers, and neither are those who went before us and those who came after us.

The truth is, many doctors feel unprepared even after the rigorous education they receive. Despite the fact that nearly all medical education is focused on managing and delivering patient care, doctors spend more time fighting malpractice lawsuits than they spend in medical school. Our education prepared us to identify diseases and manage drug interactions, but young doctors are missing skills that are essential to their careers. We aren't taught how to read an employment contract, or how to handle a medical malpractice case. We aren't trained that our retirement schedules are different than other professions and that they need to be handled differently, or that leading a team requires a different skill set than being a part of one.

What can you do to fill in the gaps in your education and learn what you didn't learn in medical school, but must know if you want to maximize your career and avoid burnout? Here's your plan:

Assemble a go-to team of advisers. We face unique challenges in our lives, especially related to law, retirement and insurance liability. Your team should include a physician mentor, an accountant, a tax accountant, an attorney with experience handling medical malpractice cases, and a financial adviser with experience working with physicians. Your team can help you navigate the unique challenges of being a physician, and help you gain a high-level understanding of practice and business management.

Continue your education by enrolling in Beyond the Exam Room's comprehensive online training program. The course curriculum focuses on career and leadership development, business and practice management, healthcare economics and personal finance and physician well-being.

Deepen your subject matter knowledge and network through BTER webinars or Signature Events. I've assembled a team of qualified subject matter experts who understand our unique context. Attending an event or webinar allows you to hear directly from them and connect with your fellow doctors.

You successfully navigated medical school, with the the help of skilled educators, excellent mentors, your peers, and your own desire to succeed. You can master this, too, with the guidance of the right team.

Brenda Smith