Don’t Get Too Comfortable

May 29, 2015
Eric Postal, MD

The one thing that’s constant in radiology is change.

Robert De Niro recently made headlines with an unusually frank graduation speech, telling art school grads in his initial statement that, “You made it. And you’re f***ed.”

Of course, he went on to cushion the blow a bit, but not before pointing out that those earning other types of degrees, say, in accounting, would have jobs and a reasonable expectation of success and stability.

Shortly after, almost as if in response, another news item ran, entitled “5 Once-prestigious Jobs That Are Now B-list.” No, accountants were not featured…but “family doctor” was, and the article properly implied that other specialties, if not in the same boat, are at least sailing in similarly troubled waters.

Precious little in life are certain, and it seems less and less is to be confidently predicted as time marches on. Still, there persists the notion that, if you have the ability and determination to successfully compete for those tough-to-get degrees and credentials, you’ll reliably have a good long-term outlook. There is then the secondary notion that, having “made it,” things will steadily improve afterwards-promotions, titles, etc. Or at least remain stable.

Which is why it can be a rather rude awakening when this fails to occur. To continue the nautical theme above: The tide stops rising, and then begins to recede, and an awful lot of folks are surprised when they fail to hover in midair at the highest level the water-line had attained.

What then happens for them can depend on how dependent they had allowed themselves to become upon whatever level they had reached. This might or might not entail an unjustified sense of entitlement. If, for instance, one fortunately got a top spot with an innovative new health care venture, and after a year of riding gravy-train the venture went under and one had to go back to working a regular job, one might more reasonably shrug and retrospectively enjoy the ride than pound fists against the wall and rail about the unfairness of the universe.

On the other hand, a 20-year partner in a private practice having the rug pulled out from under him and unceremoniously returned to associate status would have a bit more of a justified beef (unless he’d spent 18 of those years abusing his partner status).

Health care, radiology perhaps more than other specialties, has undergone a lot of changes in terms of who’s in control, with the physicians usually being on the losing end of the equation. Most of the big stuff seems to be out of our hands. One of the things over which we can hope to retain control is how we perceive and react to our circumstances. More cynically put: Don’t get too comfortable, because anything you start taking for granted will be all the more painful when you lose it.

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