A female physician advisor brings a unique perspective to women’s health in the context of leadership within the industry.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following are comments made by the author during a recent Talk-Ten-Tuesdays broadcast on women’s health.
I would love to take this opportunity to speak about women empowerment. I would be remiss if I didn’t espouse female physician causes. I’d like to go briefly into my biggest challenges as a physician advisor and how I overcame them, along with a little background into my metamorphosis from a hospitalist to a physician leader.
I started in the fall of 2011 as a physician advisor at a large academic medical center in New Jersey, having been a hospitalist up until then in both academic and non-teaching settings.
I dove right into my role.
As a new female physician leader, I had varied experiences, both positive and negative, with physicians, but my most unforgettable experiences were those that are not alien to any new physician advisor’s world. You just did long stay rounds with your complex-care social worker and case manager, the patient is all set to leave, and then you get that dreaded 3 p.m. Friday afternoon call that discharge has been cancelled. What I’m referring to are those uncomfortable conversations with the attending as an example that was holding up a discharge to the subacute rehab for an elevated TSH. Or when a CT surgeon, after being advised of several days being denied for a delay in surgery, says, “I’m not going to do what the insurance company says, or have their medical director tell me when to operate on my patient.”
I learned that my strengths were change and project management, so I naturally gravitated towards LOS (length of stay) reduction efforts through interdisciplinary rounding and complex care management. I learned early on to develop great rapport with physicians, and yet be assertive in my interactions with them, especially as they related to poor progression of care. I learned a tremendous about emotional intelligence, read avidly in my spare time, and joined organizations and discussion boards with other physician advisors.
Over the years, I’ve been so encouraged to meet other women physician advisors like me, and we’ve learned from each other’s experiences.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this career is the positive change you are able to affect, both in the way physicians practice and for the physician trainees that you are able to mentor. I hope to pass on a wealth of knowledge to the next generation of physician advisors, especially women.
In an era when women are increasingly asserting themselves in the workplace, I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage women to take on leadership roles, build visibility, take on challenges, take some risks, and not settle for the status quo. Specifically:
- Mentor other women;
- Volunteer on committees;
- Do not avoid the elephant in the room; have those difficult conversations; and
- If you’re on the sidelines, take the plunge into leadership, and do your life’s most rewarding work!
I also encourage all women to go to their primary care providers and get their annual screening tests, such as mammograms, paps, and colonoscopies, as indicated for various age groups.
Also take time to revisit your diet and activity patterns, and try to make positive changes. If you want to improve your fitness, get an activity tracker like a Fitbit to help monitor your fitness-related metrics like steps taken, calories burned, etc. I know I got one and it was a life changer; I hadn’t realized how sedentary I was, that I barely walked 2,000 steps in a day unless I really made an effort to increase my activity. Of course, focusing on women’s health, I’d like to make special mention of heart disease, which is the number one killer of women in the United States.
Women are more likely to experience atypical and subtle symptoms, such as nausea/vomiting/neck/shoulder/upper back pain. Last but not least, great mental health is really important, and foundational to good physical health as well. So take some time to rejuvenate mentally and address stress in your lives.