Till work do we part

STORY 1

The right location is key

Michelle A. Potts-Griesser, M.D., MPT is a Pediatric Physiatrist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Her husband, Michael J. Griesser, M.D., is an Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Surgeon at Clinton Memorial Hospital in Wilmington, Ohio.

"Whether you are seeking a residency position or a job, the couple has to determine who will have a more difficult time finding the position and give that person priority." - Michael Griesser, M.D., and his wife, Michelle A. Potts-Griesser, M.D., MPT, at Nationwide Children’s Hospital

"We were both looking for a job at the same time," says Potts-Griesser, "but I knew where I wanted to be. I wanted to stay where my fellowship was, at Nationwide Children’s Hospital." Potts-Griesser found her dream job and was offered her position in October 2011. Potts-Griesser also has a faculty position at Ohio State University Medical Center.

Griesser started his job search as soon as his July 2011 fellowship started. He went on seven interviews and narrowed it down to three reasonable possibilities within a negotiable distance from the hospital where his wife would work. He had five job offers by February 2012, all within Columbus and surrounding areas. He signed his contract at Clinton Memorial Hospital in April 2012, and will be a hospital employee with an orthopedic practice within the hospital.

How they interviewed

This couple did not tell recruiters they were both looking for jobs. They conducted totally individual job searches within their geographic boundaries. Initially, they didn’t go on joint interviews or send out joint CVs to potential employers. Ultimately, they did two joint interviews, but only after they had gone though the individual search process.

One of the main questions that always comes up in two-person job searches is, "Whose job gets priority? Why?"

In this case, Potts-Griesser’s job search took priority because she is in a more specialized field with fewer jobs available. She had the opportunity to get a job where she was doing her fellowship, so Griesser adjusted his job search accordingly.

"Whether you are seeking a residency position or a job, the couple has to determine who will have a more difficult time finding the position and give that person priority," he says.

Job-search advice

Potts-Griesser and Griesser advise candidates to be open and honest with potential employers in terms of your family’s location constraints.

"Be patient. Be open. Take your time, and ask questions," says Griesser.
"Try not to get frustrated or jealous or feel you have to rush to find a job because your spouse has one. Employers may try to rush you because they want an answer, but don’t be rushed."

On a few occasions, the couple was recruited by the same employer.

Even when this happens, Griesser recommends that physician couples evaluate each opportunity separately.

"What I’m clarifying is that you shouldn’t adjust your opportunity in order to work at the same hospital," says Griesser. "It’s much better to find the best individual job for you within the location."

The key point is that you both agree to the location.

"That is the one factor you can’t compromise on," Griesser says.

Once the couple agreed on the general location where they’d conduct their job search, they were able to canvass one specific area for opportunities.

Griesser ended up selecting a job about 45 minutes from home. That leaves Potts-Griesser with the responsibility of getting the children to daycare and school.

"You may have to accept that, within your geographic limits, you may not find your perfect job…the job you were dreaming of while you were growing up," Griesser says. "But you will be able to find something pretty darn close. Adjustments are in order to make it work as a couple."

 

STORY 2

Small-town living provides a perfect fit

Lindsy Alons, M.D., is an OB/GYN at Ottumwa Regional Health Center in Ottumwa, Iowa; her husband, Sandro Younadam, M.D., is an Internist. Their new practices suit the couple, whose goal was to work together.

Alons is joining the hospital employed OB/GYN group. The group is aging and had been looking for the right fit for a new physician. Younadam will be establishing a group practice in Ottumwa to which the hospital is currently trying to recruit more physicians.

Ottumwa Regional Health Center is a trauma and referral center with 217 beds providing medical care to the residents of southeastern Iowa and northern Missouri. There are 70 physicians representing 30 specialties of medicine. The city is in a family-oriented community with a population of
25,000 in the city and a service area of 125,000.

Initially, the couple focused on practicing medicine in Jacksonville, Fla., where Younadam’s parents live. They soon realized it was important to expand their search due to better job offers and a better call structure elsewhere.

How they interviewed

Alons and Younadam each had three interviews. They always brought their two children to the cities where they interviewed and arranged for family to watch the children during the actual interview time.

The couple informed recruiters and prospective employers that they were searching for work together. They always asked if there was a need for each of their specialties and sent in their CVs at the same time.

"We arranged our interviews to occur on the same day so we would both go together," says Younadam. "We visited as a family. We felt it was important."

The couple didn’t have any friends who were physician couples and didn’t ask in-house recruiters for any advice. As a result, "we figured out what we should do on our own," says Younadam.

The couple started their search in Alons’ last year of residency. "We felt it would be wise to search for both of our jobs at the same time so we could obtain work in the same city," Younadam says. "Neither of us wanted to commute long distances. We were lucky because we got our jobs at the same time."

Job-search advice

Alons and Younadam recommend that physician couples start their search with wide parameters. Initially, they limited themselves to a small region. Their philosophy changed when they realized there were numerous opportunities they would be missing if they didn’t expand their search.

Younadam advises to not judge the job before interviewing or visiting the location. After visiting a place, you may realize that you like the area more than you thought you would.

It’s also important to know what is important to you and your family, and know what amenities you need. Do your homework. Research the area so you know what it has to offer.

"Always look for a place that will make you happy in all aspects of life:
work, play, relaxation, family and hobbies," Younadam says. "It is not just about the job, but rather the whole picture."

 

STORY 3

An island job may be the perfect place

"Talk and share the thought process. It’s never healthy to ’play the martyr’
or to make sacrifices thinking you are making it better for your spouse or the
family. If you’re not happy with your decision, it will likely lead to resentment later."
- Li-Duen Clark, M.D., on the shores of Oahu with her husband, Jean-Paul Clark, M.D.

Jean-Paul Clark, M.D., and his wife, Li-Duen Clark, M.D., are both OB/GYNs who practice together at Windward Obstetrics and Gynecology LLC in Kaneohe, Hawaii.

How they interviewed

Although the couple graduated in June 2011, they started their job search in the fall of 2010. Focusing exclusively on finding two positions, they either wanted jobs in the same place or geographically suitable so they could at least live in the same house. In addition, they didn’t want a commute that would be more than 30 minutes.

Without any strong geographical ties, Hawaii seemed like the perfect place to live. The couple looked at the other Hawaiian islands, but it became apparent that Oahu, with its denser population, would provide the greatest opportunity.

"When it’s harder for one of you to find a position, then it¹s fine for one of you to have a permanent position while the other takes a temp position and continues the search," says Li-Duen Clark. "Talk and share the thought process. It’s never healthy to Oplay the martyr" or to make sacrifices thinking you are making it better for your spouse or the family. If you’re not happy with your decision, it will likely lead to resentment later."

The couple stated their goals to potential employers in a cover letter that introduced both of them. However, they kept their CVs separate. They stayed together for all but one interview. If they weren’t together for the formal interview, they had dinner together with the potential hiring doctor.

"Some recruiters/employers think when a couple is presented, they have reasonable concerns," she says. "They don’t know if the couple gets along, or what happens if there is a later dispute. Employers wonder, will they lose both of them or create an awkward work situation?"

Private practice was the Clarks’ answer.

The couple spent one week in Hawaii doing interviews. The final interview was the right fit, and from there they moved forward, using hospital assistance to set up a private practice together.

"In a way, we both thought we were crazy for starting a private practice, which we had not experienced or had any training for," says Jean-Paul Clark.

Their typical agreement consisted of a period of guaranteed income followed by a promise to stay in the area for a certain amount of time while repaying the amount of Castle Hospital assistance. "The hospital had every incentive for us to succeed," says Jean-Paul Clark. "The hospital was making a judgment in recruiting us, believing it was an opportunity for a win-win situation."

The couple saw their first patient on Sept. 6, 2011, and have no regrets.

Job-search advice

There is little preparation for simultaneous job searches in residency. Get all the help and advice you can from people who have completed these steps.

Private practice, for example, is not for the faint of heart, but perfectly possible for a couple with strong determination.

Most importantly, don’t underestimate the "feel" of a work environment. It can affect not only your day-to-day life, but also shape your future. Trust your gut and ask around.

When you’re working together, divide and conquer as much as possible. Try to avoid overlapping work, which can reduce friction. "If you feel as if you can each run the clinic without the other, that’s a success," says Jean-Paul Clark. "The clinic is not dependent on either of you, and you’re not overly dependent on each other."

"Not everything will go smoothly," says Li-Duen Clark. "It’s important to keep communication open through the process. It’s hard enough for one job search; it’s harder for simultaneous job searches. Be open and flexible, and be sure to support each other during this stressful process because no one else understands the situation better than the one going through the exact same process."

Survey says…

"Attracting a newly trained physician also means that the community must meet the needs of his or her family. In an increasing number of cases, that may include another physician.

67%  More than two-thirds of the respondents said that their practice opportunity choices are dependent on the interests of their spouse, significant other or family member.

24%   Nearly one-quarter of respondents have a spouse or significant otherwho is also a physician."

Source: Cejka Search 2012 Resident and Fellow Survey

Your same-time job search

To find the right or "near perfect" job opportunity for both you and your other half, Erin Wainwright, a physician recruiter at RegionalCare Hospital Partners in Brentwood, Tenn., has this advice.

Couples searching for physician opportunities with different specialties need to make one search the priority and focus on that one first. The priority usually goes to the specialty for which opportunities are harder to find.

"For example, at a facility in Iowa, RegionalCare Hospital Partners was able to successfully recruit an OB/GYN and an Internist. The couple knew the area was looking for both specialties and contacted us, but the OB/GYN was the priority," she says. "They wanted to make sure that the OB/GYN opportunity was a good fit because there was only one practice to join.

There were several Internist/Hospitalist opportunities in the area for the Internist to select."  Recruiting couples for physician job opportunities is not much different than recruiting one physician. Typically, recruiting the spouse physician is just as important to the organization. Wainwright’s goal is to find physicians ready to commit to the area and who are looking for a place to call home.

When Wainwright interviews one physician, she often interviews the second physician also seeking employment opportunities. Whenever possible, her organization tries to recruit both. Therefore, both physicians should always submit their CVs when looking for jobs together.

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