The natural tendency of a radiologist.

Regular readers of this column might have noticed that I play at wordsmithing. Synonyms abound, and often have subtle differences in meaning beyond what a dictionary might offer. Even if only subjectively, to a particular audience. It seems a wasted opportunity to me to use plain, “vanilla” terms when more interesting ones beckon. I’ve got a particular dislike for the word “good.” So generic, so underwhelming.

“Strive,” on the other hand, is a gem. I probably picked it up from a “Thor” comic book while I was in grade school. If you’re striving for something, you’re giving it your all. If you “try” instead of strive, you risk looking like a careless lazybones. Maybe even someone who’s more interested in readying excuses for failure than pursuing success.

The thing about striving is that it takes a lot more effort. Many just don’t have the motivation to do much striving on a regular basis. Even a real go-getter only has so much wherewithal to go around.

Still, some definitely strive more than others, and not haphazardly. The extra effort is invested out of a keener desire to achieve things, whether simply a good track record or to get ahead in life (raises, promotions, or recognition from others).

Striving is practically required in some walks of life. If you consider a random radiologist, for instance, you’re dealing with someone who had to strive to 1) get into a decent college and perform well there, such that s/he could 2) get into medical school and also do well there, such that s/he could 3) score a competitive spot in a rad residency and make it through to at least be Board-eligible, if not certified.

It’s a long haul. Such a trek, coupled with aging, has the potential to wear someone down to the point that maybe they’re not as inclined to strive as they used to be. On the other hand, running the gauntlet mentioned above has a certain likelihood of selecting for the strivers, and weeding out others.

With this select population, the odds are pretty good that more than a few will go on striving, if only because it’s in their nature. But what to strive for? Until this point, there’s been a pretty well-trod path to follow: Get this degree, then get that one, then get certification, then maybe a fellowship and/or CAQ.

For many, the natural next goal is to ascend the ranks within a radiology group. Chase partnership, for instance, or work towards becoming section head, even department Chief in a hospital. The problem with this is that, virtually by definition, there are only enough such positions to occupy a minority of the rads.

Which potentially leaves a lot of strivers feeling frustrated. There are more than a couple of ways one might deal with such frustration: Get even more determined, and strive even harder (if that’s even possible). Get bitter and stop trying so hard (sometimes easier said than done, since as noted above some are just hard-wired to keep on trying). Or find some other venue in which one’s efforts will be more fruitful (for instance, leaving a group where partnership was elusive in favor of another which promises more upward mobility).

Keeping strivers on one’s team from getting frustrated would therefore seem to be for mutual benefit. The first step in such an effort would be to know who the strivers actually are. True, some will identify themselves, openly asking after ways to advance, or at least visibly trying. Others might fly under the radar, especially if there’s no active effort to engage them.

Then, it’s probably a good idea for them to know their efforts are being noticed. And not just with an occasional verbal pat on the back or token holiday bonus. If, for instance, it’s known that a given rad hopes to climb the ranks, give the doc an occasional update as to where he stands: Let Dr. X know he’s third in line for advancement, for instance. Or offer Dr. Y leadership on one of several projects, success with which may earn her a more permanent executive role.

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