CAP@YourService – Residents Issue – Winter 2009
As we recently welcomed in a new year, I imagine many of you made New Year’s resolutions. Most of the classic resolutions that I heard are personal improvements like to lose weight, to quit smoking, or to spend more time with loved ones.
According to the ever popular Wikipedia, only 12% of people actually meet their resolution goals. This certainly makes the whole idea sound rather daunting, leaving us to wonder if we shouldn’t focus on more realistic goals.
If we refer to the Chinese zodiac, 2009 is the Year of the Ox, and this is regarded as a time of fortitude, focus, and hard work. Perhaps this year we can take a cue from the Chinese calendar and make our resolutions based on improving ourselves as pathologists.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I spend a rather large percentage of my time working, so it seems I might have a better chance of meeting a goal at work as opposed to meeting a goal on my dusty treadmill.
Preliminary data from a survey put out by the College of American Pathologists suggests that graduating pathology residents are less well prepared for practice than they would like to be. This distressing fact is unfortunately supported by employers who have hired the recent graduates. So let us make our resolution “to be proactive in improving ourselves as pathologists,” such that we might turn this data around.
Here are a few ways how to transform in 2009:
Become an invaluable member of the patient care team. Call clinicians, and call them often. Call them when you don’t necessarily have to, whether it be to relay diagnoses even if they could look them up themselves, to ask patient history questions even if you could find the data in a patient chart, or to brainstorm possible primary sources of malignancies with the radiologist. I have found that initiating a conversation for one reason turns into an invaluable information trading session for both sides. Create an environment for yourself where the clinicians know who you are when you call, such that they will remember the helpful pathology resident when they need to make decisions on their patients. Become an expert on laboratory tests and diagnostics, so you will have suggestions for them when they need you.
Remember the “Every number is a life™” campaign by the College of American Pathologists in your day to day work. When you think you couldn’t possibly do another lymph node dissection or look at one more endometrial biopsy, remind yourself that there is a patient out there who depends on you. There are no do-overs when it comes to patient specimens and diagnoses, so be diligent and persistent in everything you do, and know your limitations. When I find myself starting to drift, I think about how I would feel if a languid resident was dissecting my specimen, and that always brings me back to where I should be.
Devote some time to preparing yourself for understanding the business of practice. Learn about coding, billing, and reimbursement. Keep an eye on legislation and how it affects pathologists. Spend time with division and section leaders in pathology at your institution to familiarize yourself with the challenges and decisions they make on a daily basis. Also, attend the College of American Pathologists Residents Forum at USCAP’s annual meeting on March 7, 2009 in Boston, MA where there will be an education session on the Practice of Pathology.
Recognize yourself for your efforts. Because we, as pathologists, spend quite a fair amount of our time working, try to reward yourself whenever you can. Take satisfaction in a job well done, whether it be providing the correct diagnosis, helping to guide treatment for your patient, or dispensing essential blood products.
In parting, I leave you with this fun fact: President Obama was born in 1961, a Year of the Ox. These people are said to be born leaders: assiduous, unfailingly patient, capable of enduring hardship, systematic, well organized. As we hope that our new president lives up to this characterization, may we be inspired by the Ox as we strive to make 2009 a prosperous year for self improvement in all aspects of our lives.
Want to have the Residents Forum take action? Contact me and we’ll figure out how to get it accomplished. Together we will build a successful future for our profession.
Amanda E. Wehler, DO
Chair of the Residents Forum