Understand, Accommodate Generational Differences

The Doctor's Office , September 11, 2008

Some veteran doctors take offense at the high value younger physicians place on work-life balance, flexibility, and limited leadership commitment, saying it's disloyal and signifies a poor work ethic.

However, there are younger physicians who say they've developed some of these views after witnessing older doctors' struggles in the field, and they don't want to go down the same road.

To maintain a solid partnership in a practice with the potential for a generational divide, develop a structure in which everyone is on the same team, whether that is welcoming the new physician or communicating a conflict, says Marcus F. Keep, MD, FACF, FRCSC, a medical director and practicing neurosurgeon at Swedish Neurosurgical Associates in Englewood, CO.

"We have a large cluster [of physicians] in the 50- to 60-year-old age group, which will pose a challenge as they edge closer to retirement. We understand that the physicians who have trained recently are part of a generation that has very different expectations than those that came before," says Louis S. Snitkoff, MD, FACP, medical director at CapitalCare Medical Group in Albany, NY, a 75-physician primary care group with 22 facilities in four New York counties.

Some physicians at CapitalCare work less than full-time, but most of the group's sites accommodate their compensation formulas and make adjustments to components of their overhead expense, Snitkoff says. Some physicians also choose to work through their lunch break, and others have defined sessions in the morning, afternoon, and/or evening with breaks scheduled in between.

"We have attempted to create an environment where the physician's medical knowledge, clinical skills, and personal attributes are valued more than whether he or she is willing to work 60–80 hours per week," Snitkoff says. "We have been able to respect the needs of our physicians while meeting the needs of our patients and the organization as a whole."

This article as adapted from one that originally ran in the September issue of The Doctor's Office, a HealthLeaders Media publication.

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