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Thoughts on the post-military job search

Discussion in 'Military Medicine' started by mitchconnie, Jun 17, 2008.

  1. mitchconnie

    mitchconnie Member 10+ Year Member

    Oct 27, 2002
    It seems to be the consensus on this board that military experience is a positive on your CV when looking for a civilian job. Having just gone through a job search for a surgical subspecialty position, I would say that I agree…sort of. I would, however, offer the following caveats.

    1. Many employers are aware that military surgical practice is low-acuity, low-volume. This is a major problem and you must be ready to address this in interviews. Several potential employers contacted my references and asked them directly about what my case volume was like, and “whether I could handle a high-volume practice.”

    2. Military experience is not counted the same as civilian experience when it comes to salary or academic rank. With five years of military practice, I do have a leg up on some guy just coming out of residency. But I will be way behind the surgeon who spent five years at an academic medical center, or building a private referral base. Expect low-ball offers.

    3. Employers couldn’t care less about the stuff that makes good OPR (Army OER, Navy Fit-Rep) bullets. The ridiculous PME requirements, unverifiable dollar-savings figures, and military-specific “leadership” documentation that appear on your OPR would be a complete joke to your potential partners in private practice or the Chairman of Surgery at Hopkins: “Oooooh…wow…we need more people who completed ‘Air War College’ here at The Massachusetts General Hospital.” The one exception might be if you were the chairman of a large department at a major military medical center and were applying for a similar administrative job in a civilian institution. Don’t waste time chasing OPR bullets.

    4. Stories about deployments or other military-unique experiences make interesting conversation over dinner, but are ultimately irrelevant to whether you get a good offer. My war-time experience was often a nice conversation-starter at the beginning of interviews, but ultimately nobody cares, and I tried to move on quickly. Mainly, surgeons want to know how you will fit into their practice environment, and a bunch of wild-and-crazy cases I did in Iraq just didn’t seem all that relevant. I think focusing on this kind of military stuff makes one seem a little weird.

    I ended up with what I felt was a fair offer from a respected institution, but the strongest parts of my resume were things I did completely on my own, often in spite of resistance from the Air Force. Just “going with the flow” in a military surgical practice may really hurt you when trying to get a civilian job.
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  3. Galo

    Galo Senior Member Physician 7+ Year Member

    Jan 23, 2006
    I experienced much of the same, especially the lowball offers based on my low, compared to civilian surgeon's, case volume. What made me stand out was what I had done in the civilian setting as a military physician. No question about it. Very strong advice to try to moonlight and get your name known where there is stability and people who are known in the surgical community.
  4. Rudy

    Rudy Member 10+ Year Member

    Jun 4, 2002
    When we signed up for military medicine, most of us were young enough and inexperienced enough that we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into from the standpoint of a practicing physician. When we signed up as patriotic young pre-med students (in the mid to late 1990s for many of us), we had no idea that military med would so rapidly decline to the point that our military service may become a significant liability to our future career in medicine, the very thing that we have spent literally the best years of our lives pursuing in blood, sweat and tears. Your post accurately highlights what I believe is one of the biggest risks of pursuing a career in military med today--maintaining one's clinical competency and capability to function in the civilian sector after our military service commitment ends. Obviously, this problem affects some specialties more than others, but generally speaking, it is an issue that nearly all non-primary care physicians must face with caution.

    As a USUHS grad with 6 years remaining on my service obligation, this skill atropy issue is the concern that troubles me the most about my future career. Even though I am stationed at a pseudo AF medical center (you know the ones that have about 80 active beds now, yet still try to maintain multiple residency programs). There is absolutely no question that the volume and acuity of my caseload is well below (possibly about 50% below) that of the typical civilian private practice job. Over the course of 6 years, this may become a major issue. I will fight as hard as I can to maintain my skills (CME courses, independent reading in journals, online education sites, etc), but there is no substitute for the experience gained in handling real cases. I try to do a little moonlighting on the side, but in my specialty, you have to take leave to moonlight and there is only so much time available for that.

    The most frustrating thing about all of this is that I still work long hours each day, due to the inefficiencies of this broken system, the lack of quality support staff, and the innumerable, mind-numbing "military unique" training requirements shoved down our throats on a regular basis. It is tough to get motivated each day.

    Well, after reading the above post, I just had to voice my agreement--sorry for the long post. Unfortunately, these are issues that are only understood through experience. I fully expect to be flamed by a few med students at this point who will brazenly question my patriotism, commitment to country, and ability to maintain a positive outlook in difficult times. The bottom line is that, yes, I did sign up to serve, and yes, I do my very best each day to practice effective medicine each day, and save our good beneficiaries from the incompetent acts of the O-5s and O-6s with whom I work. But what I didn't expect was that along the way, my career could be placed in jeopardy by my fulfilling of the commitment I agreed to 10 years ago. That just isn't right; that wasn't part of the agreement I signed up for. But unfortunately, no one in any leadership capacity cares about any of this.
  5. AF M4

    AF M4 Junior Member 7+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2006
    No flames here. Thank you for your service and good luck with your future endeavors. Unfortunately the people who most appreciate what you do are typically not the same ones in a position to compensate you either by money or recognition, but please be aware that your sacrifices do not go unnoticed.
  6. Galo

    Galo Senior Member Physician 7+ Year Member

    Jan 23, 2006

    Not surprised that you've had less than favorable experiences/opinions about senior military physicians, (O-5, O-6). Just recently one of the most malignant posters on this forum acutally acused me of generalizing that they are all horrible. While I met some exeptional physicians of high rank, its unfortunate that the majority of experiences with them were subpar, and some, near criminal.

    Alot of different commanders who do not understand your plight will make moonlighting a mandatory leave issue which I think is ridiculous. But to keep up and maintain proficiency, its something that you may have to sacrifice your own time and do it.

    Best of luck.

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