There are some parts of being an academic attending that were never really covered in training, and I wonder when exactly we were (I was) supposed to figure them out. With that in mind, I want to share some of the practical tips I have learned over the past few years.
The first is, keep a teaching log (thanks, Dr. K!). For every talk I give or session I run beyond my usual responsibilities, I keep a spreadsheet with the date, topic, audience (including level and size), and assessment, if any. I update both this and my CV once a month to be sure I am accurately recording everything I am doing. Also, I’m not shy about looking for opportunities to flex my teaching skills – I believe I am still establishing myself, and that it is absolutely ok to volunteer!
Second, explore faculty development initiatives. I recently started my Master of Education in the Health Professions, and it has been really wonderful to be back in a classroom, surrounded by folks who love teaching as much as I do. There are many options beyond formal degree programs, though – everything from a Certificate to an afternoon workshop. Specifically, I have found useful offerings from my own institutions, my professional organizations, and my alumni associations.
I recently started a Fellow-as-teacher program with a colleague, and one unanticipated benefit was how this project connected us with other faculty doing similar work. A friend of mine just went to a Women in Medicine meeting at her institution and had a similar experience. I am learning that sometimes just starting something – a class, a group, an idea – opens doors to more opportunities, with the added benefits of shared resources and collaboration opportunities down the line.
Third, find a research team. Admittedly my research experience from training was on the lighter end of the spectrum, so when I first became an attending, I found that having a research mentor was invaluable. He taught me some methodology, and he looped me in to potential projects. More recently, I have started to figure out my own research interests, and I cannot emphasize enough how helpful it has been to have a team along the way, to flesh out ideas and troubleshoot anticipated roadblocks. I just submitted my first project to my institutional review board, and I know it is a stronger pitch because of the multiple inputs I received.
Lastly, keep track of continuing medical education credits. Between Grand Rounds and housestaff conferences, I spend more than five hours a week in dedicated learning environments. But, not all of it counts as “education,” and that definition is the one that matters for my state medical license and hospital credentialing board. Going forward, I will be keeping a folder with copies of my certificates as I earn them, so that I never have to scramble in December again. And, I am opting to keep my Maintenance of Certification (MOC) with the American Board of Internal Medicine, which requires regular check-ins as well.
In summary, I feel like my approach now is about 1/3 keeping good records and 2/3 working collaboratively. Developing good habits at work takes intentional effort, just like it does at home; in this case, I do believe practice makes perfect. Over the past year especially, as some projects of mine have begun to take flight, I have become particularly appreciative of how beneficial working with someone can be, with respect to both an ear for ideas and a source of external motivation for follow-through. I’ll close with this business article that explores some of the additional benefits of collaboration.