Career Resources articles posted on NEJM CareerCenter are produced by freelance health care writers as an advertising service of the publishing division of the Massachusetts Medical Society and should not be construed as coming from the New England Journal of Medicine, nor do they represent the views of the New England Journal of Medicine or the Massachusetts Medical Society.
By Nisha Mehta, MD, a physician leader whose work focuses on physician empowerment, community building, and career longevity in medicine
I’m part of a dual physician family: my husband is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, and I’m a musculoskeletal radiologist. We’ve been dating since college, and every few years, one of us has had to make accommodations for the other, whether it be regarding medical school, residency, or fellowship. Finding jobs has been no different.
Approaching the job market as a dual physician (or really, any dual working member) family is tricky, because you have two members of a family who’ve invested a lot into their education and goals and are now trying to find a geographic location that can accommodate both of those things. Depending on what your interests are, it can feel next to impossible. Let’s say one person has always wanted to incorporate policy work while another really wants to be at an academic institution that has niche expertise in a particular area of research — the city that has both opportunities available may not exist. Incorporate other factors such as family support or access to interests outside of medicine, and it becomes even more complicated.
Let’s say you’ve narrowed your list down to a few cities, though. How do you approach that job search?
- Cast your net as wide as possible. Forget about the reasons a job won’t work; instead, believe in the reasons why it will. Sometimes jobs that seem outwardly incompatible can end up being different than what you imagined, or an employer may want you enough to accommodate some requests on your part that would make it a surprisingly good fit. You’ve put a lot into your education, so don’t limit yourself as you’re crossing the finish line. Worst case scenario, you’ve wasted a little time. Think about how much time you spent memorizing things during your college prerequisites, and it’ll quickly bring it into context.
- Network widely. Reach out to every employer in the area you have access to. Use friends, family, colleagues, or whoever else you may know that have connections to jobs in the area, and make sure they are looking for positions not just for you, but also for your significant other. Look on job boards, LinkedIn, and other professional networks. You never know where something will come up.
- Have a list of dealbreakers for each person. It’s important to know when to cross a job off the list. One mistake I see many physician couples making is one person falling in love with a particular job, and the other person compromising too heavily on another job. Unfortunately, while it may have seemed considerate at the time, in the long term, the person who took the significantly less appealing job may become resentful or decide to quit the job, possibly necessitating the job search process for both to start again in a different city because of noncompete issues.
Once you’ve got some options that work for both lined up, make sure you both stay active in each other’s processes. It’s easy to get so caught up in your interview process that you both go about your job searches independently. However, your family’s happiness is going to rely on both of your jobs working well together, your significant other’s happiness, and your happiness with each other’s work environments. You presumably know each other better than anyone else, so having each other’s input when making these decisions will be invaluable. So many times at job interviews, I’ve pointed out something my husband didn’t pick up on that would’ve been problematic, and vice versa.
The jobs you pick together are going to shape what your life looks like, so approach this job search as a team. Together, you’ll have a much better shot at creating the life in medicine that you want for your family.