If you were to ask me about the most critical part of my radiology residency and practice experience, my answer would not be what you might think. Yes, the medical knowledge that I learned was important. And, the communication skills I obtained were invaluable as well. But, those experiences are not to which I am referring. Even perhaps more significant than anything else, I learned the ability to internalize rewards from the practice of radiology.
What do I mean by this? For me, the most significant rewards of practice don’t come from the administration or my colleagues’ lathering praise onto my work. And, it does not come from a massive monetary bonus. (although it can’t hurt!) Instead, I do what I do because I take an interest in the science, art, and practice of radiology. And I derive joy from giving patients quality care.
For new folks coming out, this may not make much sense. Programs have given them evaluations and recommendations, giving them tons of external feedback. And, they continue to thrive on words from others. Additionally, they hear about more significant attending radiology salaries and look forward to getting their own. But that is all fluff. Only when you can internalize the rewards of practice, you will find happiness in your career.
Why Do I Mention All This?
Many new graduates (but not all) expect the applause of others to continue in their job, whether it be your bosses, colleagues, or patients. And then, one day, a clinician criticizes your work, or your colleagues say you are missing findings. Or, maybe at the beginning, you didn’t quite receive the salary you may have initially expected. Then, at the drop of a hat, you want to pack it all in and then quit. Why is that? Well, I believe part of it has to do with the inability to internalize rewards, expecting all the rewards to come from others. And, I have a few theories for this issue! Let’s call them the Millenial Mentality, too much feedback, and lack of experience/grit. I will go into each of them individually.
Causes For Inability To Internalize Rewards
I am sure I will get blowback from this one. But, I think there are unique parenting differences between the millennial generation and the ones before. Of course, these differences don’t apply to all of the parents of the Millenials.
One of the most significant differences is the overemphasis on the reward rather than the process. You can see that represented by all the trophies that children receive for just participating in an activity. Nowadays everybody gets a prize. It never used to be like that. Only the best or the winner would receive the reward. So, if you came in fourth place, you wouldn’t get a badge of honor. And, you had to learn to deal with losing. Learning sometimes to lose enables kids to learn to love to emphasize the competition (or the process) and not the reward (the trophy).
Let’s now fast forward years ahead to your first job. No longer are you receiving the reward, the adulation of your faculty colleagues or the feedback you were expecting? It’s not what you are accustomed to. And, it becomes much harder to appreciate the work that you do.
Too Much External Feedback
Residencies nowadays are on feedback overload. Between milestones and monthly evaluations from attendings and colleagues, semi-annual assessments by the program director, and daily feedback from your faculty, it doesn’t end. And, this was just the tip of the iceberg. Formerly you would receive tons of forced feedback in medical school and college as well in the form of tests and evaluations. And, this is what graduates continue to expect.
However, this is not the way most practices and businesses work. You cannot expect to receive constant attention from your bosses. They may be very busy and have to attend to lots of other issues. Now, this is not to say that you can’t expect some feedback. However, it can make a new radiologist very uncomfortable when all this feedback suddenly stops at her first job.
Lack Of Experience/Grit
And, then finally, many new radiologists have never held a regular job before going to medical school. In truth, being a radiologist may be their first leap into the real world. Yet, many times, it is only by experiencing the realities of an average job that many folks learn to appreciate the ups and downs of your career and let some of it roll off your back.
It’s those times that a customer yells at you for not getting their drinks on time. Or, the occasion that you had to deal with a fight between you and your manager. You learn to deal with these untidy situations. And, you apply them to your career. It allows you to brush off the criticism you may take and move on. You learn not to take everything to heart.
Internalizing Rewards: A Key To Success?
With all this baggage upon many new radiologists, it is possible to shed the luggage one by one. Be mindful of some of these learned behaviors and the historical context through which you have lived. And, don’t expect your colleagues, superiors, and employees to kowtow to your greatness. Learn to love what you do and not just the external trappings of success. You will be much more happy in your career!