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Career Source: Communicating with the New EP Generation

Katz, Barbara

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000394585.90280.a7
Career Source


One of the most surprising results from the communications section of my Millennial Physician survey was that 90 percent of these young physicians do not tweet!

Less than three percent even reported being on Twitter. On the other hand, 77 percent have a Facebook page. One would think that Twitter would be more popular, considering how valuable an emergency physician's time is, but not so. In fact, among the Facebook users, most have more than 250 “friends,” with several stating they have more than 400. I asked how much time they spend on Facebook daily, and 24 percent actually spend an hour a day on the site, 40 percent are on between 15 and 30 minutes daily, and the rest use the site much more infrequently.

Of the few tweeters I found, a strong majority also used Facebook on a regular basis but Twitter more sporadically. Responders also had a much higher number of people they followed on Twitter than those who followed them. So what does this all mean? It says to me that these physicians enjoy connecting with friends, colleagues, and family using social media, but don't like the limitations imposed by a site like Twitter. A number of these responders are not only connecting with friends and family, but also use Facebook as a way to keep up with sports, interests, and even trends and issues in emergency medicine.

I began the communications section by asking which device they used as a primary communication tool. The iPhone came out on top at 35 percent, followed by the Blackberry at 33 percent, and other makes at 32 percent. Email was the preferred method for contacting a friend or colleague with 40 percent of responders, texting came next with 35 percent, and 25 percent prefer the telephone. Communication by device is definitely the preferred method, which makes one wonder about face-to-face communication skills, but more on that later.

Part 4 in a Series

I also asked how much time they wanted to spend on vacation annually. What an eye opener! Thirty-four percent want between six and eight weeks vacation a year! Some responded “lots,” while another actually said 25 percent of his year. Another 25 percent expected four weeks of vacation, and 17 percent stated three weeks, while a surprising 23 percent wanted less than three weeks vacation. Vacation time is a big issue for millennial physicians. They are as interested in their time off the job as on. Lifestyle is number one with a bullet with these millennial physicians. That's not to say that lifestyle has not been important to emergency physicians in the past, just not as prominently as it seems to be with this generation of doctors.

The survey also asked them to write in the social activities they enjoy most. More than 40 percent said dining out. Spending time with family, outdoor activities, and exercising were equally popular with 33 percent of respondents. About 30 percent listed a sport they enjoyed playing, and 28 percent specified spending time with family. Only few listed more sedate activities like reading, music, television, movies, or just relaxing. (Sleeping was specifically mentioned by at least three percent.)

I also asked why they would choose a particular location for their first job. Sixty-four percent said proximity to family, and 23 percent said proximity to a recreational venue, with only 13 percent choosing the position itself. The responses to this question demonstrated that, again, lifestyle remains the prime motivation among millennial physicians. Emergency medicine residency grads in the 90s and the past decade were more likely to chase a partnership and a dollar in their job searches. The millennial physician, while not willing to settle for a substandard job or an abbreviated income, are more apt to chase a lifestyle, putting the job itself in the position of a means to that end.

Much has been said about the interpersonal and communication skills of millennial physicians. This is a generation raised in a communication-by-device world. They talk less and text more. They converse with screen contact more than eye contact. How are they going to handle one-on-one communication with patients and families? Just as relevant is how well they will communicate with colleagues, support staff, and consultants. Time will tell. But I think employers have to pay special attention to new physicians, being prepared to work with them in this area. The approach to any interpersonal communications issues must be constructive and encouraging, not punitive. It's not their fault their directors didn't grow up with a cell phone in their pockets from age 4! Think simulation lab. Conducting exercises in staged encounters could be far more helpful than a negative evaluation and lecture.

The last survey question was, “Which do you honestly believe is most reasonable when joining a new EM group or department?” The choices were:

A. “I must adapt to their methods and practice parameters; the old ways still work.” Only four percent of respondents chose this option.

B. “They must adapt to my methods and practice parameters as I bring new vision and skills to the mix.” No one chose this option.

C. “Both parties need to be open to adapting and learning new methods and skills.” Ninety-six percent chose this answer.

These physicians are obviously ready, willing, and eager to work with their employers to fit in and adapt. But if employers want to retain the services of these physicians, they are going to have to work just as hard to adapt to their needs and desires.

The survey results determined that millennial emergency physicians appear to be a new breed of doctor with different value systems and approaches to career-building. I conducted one-on-one interviews with some millennial physicians, and I'll wrap up the series with those conversations next month.

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Ms. Katz

Ms. Katz

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