Physicians, Where Does Your Loyalty Lie?

July 22, 2013

A Physician Loyalty Team? Why not examine why physicians join – and stay – at the practice? And who better the lead the effort than a radiologist?

Consider this recent morning. I’m busy grinding through ER cases on the work list. Typical appendicitis. Nice epiploic appendagitis. Subtle stroke.

Then there’s a great case of massive bilateral PE, so I quickly call the attending and ask if he wants to consider catheter directed thrombolysis and he says “sure.” So I call the IR, and while scrolling through images with him, marketing calls. A young female news reporter is dropping by the office in 30 minutes for a scoop on the AP wire story about dense breast tissue on mammograms and they want the radiologist’s perspective.

I quickly rifle through my electronic files for previous materials that I have already submitted to the news and administration on mammography, dense tissue, risk, radiation exposure, mortality, benefits, etc. Didn’t they read this stuff that I already gave them? Oh well, I guess I just have to keep educating.

Suddenly the door to my office opens and our lead ultrasound tech enters the room in tears since the path report from the thyroid FNA done on her assistant tech just came back positive for Hurthle cell cancer. I stop working and we have a chat about life not being fair, the recent passing of one of my former colleagues and how we all need to take care of ourselves and try to push through the difficult times in our lives. As she departs, I glance at the time and realize it’s just a few minutes shy of the IRB committee meeting, so I begin to quickly gather materials regarding the imaging aspects of the oncology trial they are considering.

When my pager goes off at 11:50 I mistakenly think it’s a bit late for an IRB reminder notice. Actually, the CEO is holding.

“Hi Ken. I’d like to go to lunch. Are you free?”

What does one say to your employer when he makes a request like that? Warp speed thinking engages. I already have another rad going to the IRB meeting. I don’t have any immediately pending cases, next one starting after lunch. I’m done reading my last case and will just start on the next case whenever I sit down at the work station. IT committee meeting isn’t until 3 pm. Technologist issue’s over, at least for now. I don’t have any immediately pressing duties. If I am honest with myself, I realize that I don’t really have a legitimate reason for declining.

“Of course I can go. Where and when? Are you coming by my office or should I meet you there?”

This has been a snippet of a hectic (but perhaps not atypical) morning in the life of a busy radiologist, probably not that uncommon for the majority of us. It would be tempting to say no, but because we do what we do, and because I particularly love what I do, I quickly accept.

As we are discussing things over lunch, he expresses his desire to have me become the chairman of the Physician Loyalty Team. The Physician Loyalty Team? Never heard of it, I’m thinking. What the heck is that?

“Acronyms aside, what is the PLT?” I deadpan.

“I’m glad you asked,” he replies, and then goes on to explain his initiative to study what factors attracted physicians to our practice, what makes them and their families happy, and what the institution needs to do to retain physicians and keep them loyal to the hospital. “I know you’re busy, but I know you can do it.”

Just as many radiologists across the country have similar practices, many administrators across the country are much like him as well. They look to us in radiology for answers because they see us as bright individuals, problem solvers, great communicators, educators and physician resources they can go to when they need challenges addressed and answers delivered.  I would argue that is how we should be perceived. However, we only earn that perception when we proactively strive to be that kind of a resource.

 If we don’t build it, they won’t bother to come.