I Have a Message for Third-Year Emergency Medicine Residents at ACEP

I have a message for 3rd-year residents, particularly those who are walking around to the different exhibitors at ACEP 2014 in Chicago this week looking for a job, thinking about a job, hoping they’ll get a job, or otherwise fearing they might not get a job. Here’s the message: don’t worry.

You might think that these young, budding emergency physicians have nothing to fear. After all, there are far more emergency job openings than there are emergency physicians. They are in high demand, and by most projections that demand is only going to grow. 

But here’s the thing. Emergency physicians by their nature and in their training are accustomed to thinking about the worst-case scenario. After all, that’s the sort of thinking they need while caring for patients in the emergency room. But it’s amazing how that kind of thinking can overflow into the job search. Quite often at year three of residency you start getting scared that you either won’t find a job, or you won’t get the job you want, or some other iteration of completely fear-based thinking, completely without reason or evidence of course. 

I’ve been there. Even today, two years out of residency, I can feel it. If I were to lose my job tomorrow I’d be suddenly terrified. I’m not going to say it’s a rational position to take. When I stop and think about it, I’d probably be fine. There are plenty of jobs out there for an ER physician. But it’s in my nature. I can’t help it.

That attitude creeps in again when you’re just out of residency, that fear that you’ll make a mistake, that maybe you’ve chosen the wrong company, or even the wrong career. As a mentor to new physicians, I see it all the time. The number one thing the new docs say is that they’re afraid. For them, I also have a message: it’ll be ok. Just remember that time when you were totally scared that you wouldn’t get a job at all, and look how that turned out.