Over the last year, I transitioned from a residency program at a military hospital to a fellowship in a civilian setting. During this time, I’ve identified four rules of conduct from my military background that have helped me in practice. By passing these tips along, I hope to make your life a little easier as you navigate through your young career.
Early Is On Time and On Time Is Late
If you aren’t early, you are late. If grand rounds starts at 7 a.m., you should be in your seat ready to go at 6:55 a.m. Obviously, this doesn’t work if your prior scheduled event ends at the same time another begins (e.g., the morning lecture goes until 8 a.m. and clinic starts at 8 a.m.). Being on time is a sign of respect — respecting the time of the person you are meeting and the time of the others in your group. If you are going to be late, let your colleagues know.
Do the Easy Things Well
Show up early, be properly attired, return emails and calls, complete your notes in a timely fashion, etc. These little tasks are easy and give you significant purchasing power if you do them well. They also can provide an aura of confidence that extends to how people perceive your other capabilities and clinical competence. Conversely, if you do the easy things poorly, others may assume your clinical acumen is comparable.
Being proactive probably has saved me the most. Be proactive in finishing things you are scheduled to complete as well as anticipating possible issues. Look at the clinic schedule and pay attention to the staff schedule. Sometimes people forget they are going to be out of the office — catch it early and you can be a hero to the staff. If you know something may be an issue, take steps to lessen or prevent the impact. For example, if you know the OR staff consistently forgets to dilate patients, call them on your way in and give a gentle reminder.
Take Care of Your People
Some young ophthalmologists will say, “I don’t have any people.” But you really do have people. If you are a first-year resident, you may have medical students or interns. If you are a chief resident, you have the other residents. If medical students are rotating with you, make sure they get something to eat at lunchtime. If you’re working with junior residents, teach them, pass on information and protect them, when appropriate. If you are a fellow, you can be the cushion between the staff and the residents.
Medicine isn’t a battle, but at times, it sure can feel like you’re in the trenches. I hope these tips provide you with some benefit throughout your career.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Department of the Navy, the U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. government.
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About the author: Kyle Eric Miller, MD, is a fellow and clinical instructor of pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus at the Ratner Children’s Eye Center, University of California, San Diego, and the Naval Medical Center San Diego. A member of the U.S. Navy since 2003, Dr. Miller participated as a 2015 Advocacy Ambassador sponsored by the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons at the Academy’s Mid-Year Forum. He is a recipient of many military awards, including the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.