Travel Work

Change of Pace

September 25, 2019

I’m headed to a work trip today — Arlington VA (basically an airport hotel, albeit a nice one) for about 48 hours. I need it. It is officially interview season (in my residency/GME world) and things have been a little stressful at work.

Yesterday I found out that a very key new hire for our program (program administrator) chose another position at the 11th hour (she was supposed to start Monday). So. I’m a little dejected and need the influx of (hopefully positive) energy that a GME-related conference should provide. If nothing else I will have many FAR more seasoned program directors to turn to for advice!

I know some of you have been curious as to what my new work life looks like. It is hectic, varied, and fun. What it hasn’t been is particularly flexible. Somehow I thought that when I removed more clinical time, I’d end up with swathes of time to just complete work at my own pace. This has not been the case at all — I typically have semi-urgent projects to finish, and meetings upon meetings. Most of which are important (though some are longer than they probably need to be).

Usually I have 2 fully clinical days per week. I don’t do very much GME work on those days but still receive several texts and emails from people often asking urgent or semi-urgent questions (“hey, where is this conference” 5 minutes before the conference). Sometimes it’s frustrating because I don’t feel like those questions necessarily need to be directed at me, but that is the aforementioned staffing issue that we are actively working on, and hopefully it will improve with time.

I am still able to keep my clinical days mostly clinical — I mean, I have to, I’m actively seeing patients! And I like those days. Often I teach on those days too, with a medical student or resident with me.

The rest of the week is GME time, save for one day in 10 (ie, one full day every other week) when I am OFF, which is generally when I record podcast episodes! During my GME time, I have meetings (often early), work on projects (anything from editing curriculae to submitting required info to ACGME to working on recruitment materials for interviews). There are PD meetings and GME committee meetings and meetings with rotation leads and meetings with residents. Many meetings. And starting in October, interviews will begin which will take up two full half-days every other week.

So, the flexibility I fantasized about a little (workout at lunch?) has not come to fruition for the most part. But I’m also very new at the role, so maybe I will get better at time blocking/time protecting. I am learning that I am going to have to guard some days very fiercely to keep more open to get longer term/deeper projects done, or they will never get done.

Perhaps I will do a more detailed ‘work life’ analysis (sparing any confidential details of course) in the future, but not today b/c I have to get ready to go (7:30 am meeting . . . ).

PS: I LOVED all of your travel comments. I was reminded of our 2015 trip to NC with 3 year old A and 1.5 year old C which was (by objective criteria) mostly disastrous. I will admit that we love telling the travel horror stories though (specifically our plane flight back that got delayed with a 3 hr sit ON the plane prior to taking off and then there were two very special incidents, one involving a fruit pouch that turned into a fountain and a child that would NOT put their clothes back on after having an accident on the plane and had to be carried nude and screaming through the MIA airport). Ahh, good times.

Annabel in 2015 after C’s tantrum caused us to have to eat dinner on the hotel room floor. Without utensils.


  • Reply allison September 25, 2019 at 7:08 am

    You are visiting my neighborhood! Hope you enjoy your relatively short stay. We are boasting great temps for early morning running if you get an opportunity – so fingers crossed you have a free moment to yourself πŸ™‚ Also – solidarity on the no travel. We have a 4 year old and a 19 month old (slightly younger than G) and are on a self-imposed travel ban πŸ™‚

    • Reply Emilie September 25, 2019 at 4:00 pm

      My neighborhood too!! Lots of great running trails in the area if you get the chance.

  • Reply Laura Vanderkam September 25, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Nude and screaming through the MIA airport! You can’t make this stuff up. Glad you can laugh at it now!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 25, 2019 at 8:58 am

      Not only do we laugh about it but the kids think it’s HILARIOUS.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns September 25, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Enjoy your time away – even though it will be brief and filled with work! A change of scenery/pace is always nice!

    Hopefully with time you’ll figure out how to block out your schedule and maybe reduce the time of the meetings? I am so anti-meeting. Sometimes it feels like people meet just to meet and nothing gets accomplished. I don’t have a position of influence in my firm, though, so am sort of along for the ride. But maybe that’s something you can influence down the road? It seems like you shouldn’t be getting texts/emails asking where a conference is! Come on people, act like an adult and get your sh*t together! (I am like you – upholder. And I’m an enneagram 1, which I think you are, too, so I have no patience for disorganization that is avoidable!).

  • Reply gwinne September 25, 2019 at 9:17 am

    I am spending so much time in meetings that I can’t actually do the ‘action items’ that result from meetings. This is also as a result of being a program director. I have managed to schedule two whole non-campus days next week, which will be critical to getting more ‘deep work’ done, not to mention catch up!

    Have you said what GME stands for?

    • Reply Gillian September 25, 2019 at 9:59 am

      Graduate medical education–essentially internship, residency and fellowship programs that provide on the job training for doctors.

  • Reply Beth @ Parent Lightly September 25, 2019 at 9:31 am

    When I was overwhelmed by meetings a few years ago, I just blocked 3 hours in the morning for work. People almost always respected the block when booking meetings. If they tried to book a meeting at that time I just declined and suggested a new time. It was brutal but it worked.

  • Reply omdg September 25, 2019 at 10:50 am

    HA! I hear you. I am submitting a grant this week (today, actually), and I told the grant admins that I was giving them my stuff a day early because I would be in the OR the next day, and would not be able to respond to “urgent” requests for administrative emergencies of any kind. I actually said, “I’m really sorry, when I am in the OR, I need to be completely focused on my patients, and I will typically only be able to respond to you the following day. In other words, when I am in the OR, you should think of me as dead.” I actually said that!!! And it seemed to go over ok! (I hope). Hoping your new role gets easier, but from what I’ve heard from others it may not — sorry! I think people still find it rewarding though.

    I also think it’s funny that people think my research time is basically 5 days off per week. I literally do not stop. Ever. I have worked every single day for at least 8-12 hours each day — not including mulling over ideas while walking the dog and showering — for the past month. I am looking forward to not working this coming Sunday. I hope. We will have to see though.

    I laughed out loud at your MIA tantrum story. Yeah, it’s totally funny retrospect, and you are more adventurous than you give yourself credit for.

  • Reply Gretchen September 25, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    I’m sorry to hear that your candidate for PA fell through at the last minute. And during interview season, which is rough. Hang in there! I am not a physician, but I’m a program manager for a residency (and mom of 4) so I have the utmost compassion for your GME struggles.

  • Reply Lily September 26, 2019 at 5:37 am

    Not sure if it fits your workplace, but I book fake meetings with myself and take my laptop to a conference room with a nice view and just get stuff done

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 26, 2019 at 6:47 am

      I could do the same thing minus the conference room part (conf space is at a premium so I’d probably get in trouble!)

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