GUEST POST: Partners in life and in pediatrics

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Dr. Natasha" (pictured here with spouse) tells us: 

My journey from medical school to my current career was uniquely paired with love. Not only did my husband and I meet in medical school and couples-matched in general pediatrics, but we now work together in the same pediatric practice. Studying, training, and working with him has created the entire framework of my medical life.

Dual physician families are certainly not unique, but in our area there are no other spouse teams in suburban private practice. Being independent providers within a united couple provides challenges. Careful navigation of our careers, however, has allowed us to find some successes in work-life balance, business ventures, and patient care.

One of our first hurdles after residency was finding two jobs. We quickly learned that most small private practices did not want a husband/wife team within one group. Avoiding the mess if we were to split up? Alternatively, groups did not want spouses being in separate, competing practices. Sharing "trade secrets?" So what were we supposed to do? We were told we could not work together, but could not work apart.

We had to press on, with confidence in our goals and our passions. We continued to send out separate resumes, with full disclosure of our situation. Our interviews emphasized that although our training paths were similar, we each had unique strengths to bring to a practice. That approach, and a bit of luck, led us to a practice seeking two practitioners willing to work with us both. We landed the jobs and hit the ground running.

We began our family shortly after starting our jobs, having our first child 9 months after our start date. Our next challenge was to arrange our scheduling so we each could have a productive full-time practice (open 7 days per week), while keeping some order in our home life. Working full-time here means 4 days per week in addition to night and weekend call. We rotate our call with the other 10 doctors of our group, for a total of 40+ working hours per week. Work-life balance is always tenuous, but careful arrangement makes it possible.

Working with my husband allows us to develop a common focus, which makes us very productive business partners. Conversations about work spill over into our car ride home. We can often discuss and solve problems by the time we pull up to daycare, rather than spending time in multiple traditional business meetings. Our extra "spit-balling" sessions are where the business of medicine becomes fun. We have time to get beyond the daily routine and experiment with innovations that keep our practice on the cutting edge. This collaboration allows us to bring refined ideas to our board meetings, expediting change.

It is, however, challenging to be thought of as individuals by our practice partners, as it is often assumed that we share the same opinion. Although often true, it is certainly not the rule. In order to separate ourselves as individual owners of a medical practice, both he and I have made a conscious effort to get involved with different aspects of our business. Each having a unique contribution, our individuality can shine.

Patient care is also affected by our marriage. Our similar practice style has unexpectedly led to many “shared” families, with the boys seeing my husband and the girls seeing me. We are able to provide seamless care for our families while giving the children a choice between a male or female provider. Being a "husband and wife team” allows us to quickly build rapport with families who gain a window into our life and dynamics, aiding the personal connection.

Regardless of the best scheduling attempts, business ideas, or patient families; medicine remains a demanding profession. Being a dual-physician family can multiply this stress. By walking through the same doors each morning, we spend 40 hours together that we would otherwise spend apart. And instead of medicine’s demands pulling us in different directions, we work together to advance our business and provide our best patient care. I feel blessed and honored that we share this journey. I would not have it any other way.

ABOUT OUR GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Dr. Natasha was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska and went on to graduate (with her husband) from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in her hometown. She (and he!) completed pediatric residency training at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. She is skilled at integrating technology into her practice, blogging for her practice, and we are thrilled that she shares her (and his?) story here on our Pediatric Career blog. By the way, Dr. Natasha thinks she has one of the best jobs in the world, and so does her spouse!


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