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Young Ophthalmologists
Did They Stay or Did They Go? Why YOs Keep or Leave Their First Jobs

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First jobs can be a bit like young love. We might optimistically hope that this is the start of a beautiful future, but things don’t always go as planned. Whereas theories may abound for failed love, however, less is known about why some first jobs result in long-term employment while others do not.

To learn more about this, the Academy recently surveyed young ophthalmologists about their experiences at the suggestion of Rob Melendez, MD, who is in the Academy’s Leadership Development Program this year. The survey compares the experiences of YOs who stayed in their first full-time position with the experiences of those who left their full-time position.

The Academy asked Bruno and Ridgeway and Associates to conduct the survey via e-mail. Invitations were sent to 1,959 Academy members who were in practice less than five years, 10 percent of whom completed the survey.

Both job seekers and ophthalmology practices alike can draw conclusions from this survey. YOs can use this information to learn from the positive and negative first job experiences of other YOs.

Key Findings
There were several interesting findings the came out of the survey. The following are the top key insights:

  • More than three out of four (78%) ophthalmologists in their first five years of practice remained with their first full-time position (henceforth called ”job retainers”). About one in four (22%) have held more than one position (henceforth called “job switchers”). A few (4%) have held three or more positions.
  • 75% of job retainers were very or extremely satisfied with their first jobs, as compared to only 12% of job switchers.
  • Among job switchers, the following were cited as reasons for leaving:
    • 52% found a better position
    • 31% cited poor pay
    • 31% cited poor relations with their fellow doctors
    • 26% felt that work was not shared equitably
    • 24% said that there was not enough business
    • 21% could not agree on a partnership agreement
    • 17% said that either they or their families did not like the practice location
    • 17% said that work-life balance was not as expected.
  • Partnership was offered to 93% of job retainers and 64% of job retainers were made aware of partnership conditions upon hire. By contrast, the numbers for job switchers are 72% and 25%, respectively.
  • Job retainers report being on weekday call one day out of every six and on weekend call one weekend out of every 6.2. Job switchers reported being on call more often — one day in five during the week and one weekend out of every 4.6.
  • Two-thirds of job retainers feel that the workload was shared equally, while more than half of job switchers believe it was not shared equitably. Job switchers were more likely to say they saw fewer patients (especially surgical patients and new patients) or that they were expected to find their own patients. 
  • 71% of job retainers were extremely satisfied or very satisfied with the mix of patient cases in their first job versus only 57% of job switchers. 
  • 69% of job retainers sought advice from other physicians when looking for their first full-time position versus only 41% of job switchers. 
  • Notably, when job switchers moved on to their next position, they were seeing more patients, had higher incomes and were more informed regarding partnership conditions.

The survey also allowed respondents to offer advice to other candidates. The most common advice given was:

  • Make an effort to really to get know your future colleagues and trust your instincts.
  • Make sure that you and your family really want live in the area the practice is located in.
  • Have an attorney review your hiring contract and/or partnership agreement.
  • Seek the advice of other ophthalmologists who have already made the transition from training to practice.

For more information, view a detailed summary (PPT 2,581K) of the survey results.

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About the author: Rob Melendez, MD is a full-time comprehensive ophthalmologist with Eye Associates of New Mexico with an emphasis on cataract surgery and pursing an MBA degree. He is also a member of the Young Ophthalmologist committee, ONE Network comprehensive ophthalmology committee, and in the Leadership Development Program X, Class of 2008. He is also very interested in mentoring young ophthalmologists and medical students. He is a volunteer assistant clinical professor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Melendez would also like to thank Academy staff Jay Saoud, Gail Schmidt and Gabrielle Naughten for all their hard work and insights on this survey.