February 27, 2024

Integrating Personal Fulfillment and Career Growth

Nilda Maria Williams, MD, MS, CLC

What if all radiologists declined any and all opportunities and work in order to avoid the discomfort of facing the unknown or to sidestep potential failure — all while imaging volumes continue to increase? And, what if radiologists willing to do the work were seen as overachieving, perfectionistic heroes?

The conditions conceptualized above would put quality patient care at risk and strain departments. This scenario could also lead to decreased professional fulfillment and increased burnout due to insufficient time, energy, resources and support to engage in meaningful work.

One of the articles in the Stanford Medicine Physician Well-Being Director Course speaks to these two dichotomous physician demographics and the happy medium: “Well-being 2.0,” as described in Physician Well-being 2.0: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?

In addition, research from the University of Chicago featured in this X feed (formerly known as Twitter) highlights how connecting to something bigger than oneself can positively affect one’s happiness and fulfillment.

Finding that happy medium, our Well-being 2.0, would serve us well. Let’s seek neither perfectionism nor protecting ourselves from failure. Instead, let’s embrace a growth mindset and seek meaning and purpose in our personal and professional lives. Let’s not work ourselves “into the grave.” And instead of striving for work-life balance, let’s aim for work-life integration (this U.S. Chamber of Commerce article describes the difference).

We need not seek connection only in our personal relationships. We can connect with our colleagues and communities as well. Let’s share a sense of collegiality and loyalty to one another and remember the reasons why we chose to practice medicine. Doing so can lead to career growth and increased professional and personal fulfillment.

How do we begin?

Let’s be willing to say “yes” even if our instinct is to say “no,” especially during moments of self-doubt (e.g., imposter syndrome). Instinctively saying “no” early in our careers could prohibit us from achieving an even more meaningful and fulfilling career in medicine. We could also overlook new and fulfilling relationships with colleagues, referring providers, hospital leadership as well as the movers and shakers at ACR®. And what if sometimes saying “yes” could send our careers on entirely different trajectories into new and exciting areas?

Assuming you are a YPS member reading this article, you’ve probably spent the past decade learning about SNIPs, the Krebs cycle and TI-RADS™; studying for the MCAT® exam, STEP exams and board exams; and possibly starting families as well. You probably haven’t had time yet to explore the non-clinical sides of medicine, such as getting involved in organizations like ACR or delving into quality & safety (Q&S) work. But while you are exploring and discovering your various passions in medicine early in your career, this is one of the most important times in your professional life.

When I (reluctantly) said “yes” to being our department’s Q&S Officer, I had no experience or interest in Q&S work. To my great surprise, I found my Q&S work very rewarding. I gained an appreciation for the day-to-day work of our referring providers and clinical outcomes nurses as we worked together to provide quality and exceptional patient care.

Serving as Q&S Officer broadened my vision of the landscape of medicine and improved my understanding of the intricacies of our healthcare system. And now I find myself incredibly passionate about physician well-being. The knowledge I gained as Q&S Officer and the connections I made with hospital leadership helped me be more empathetic and impactful as Chair of our institution’s first Physician Well-Being Committee.

If you would like to stay up-to-date on the latest physician well-being literature, be sure to follow my Wellness Matters podcast and access resources within the ACR Radiology Well-Being Program.