Many physicians will work in a teaching hospital during their residency years – perhaps longer if they chose to pursue a fellowship. But teaching hospitals are not only an essential workplace at the beginning of a physician’s career – they have much to offer throughout your career.
Reason #1: Your Choice of Specialty
Teaching hospitals are the backbone of medical services in the USA. The nation’s 1,000+ Teaching hospitals train more than 100,000 new physicians and other health professionals every year. They disproportionately deliver specialized services, complex treatments and life-saving care – including 88% of comprehensive cancer care centers and 71% of all level-one trauma centers[i]. This makes teaching hospitals a natural choice for physicians working in these specialized services.
Reason #2: A Culture of Excellence
In a 2016 article in the Washington Post, Harvard medical professor David Silbersweig noted that “physicians in other settings routinely refer patients to teaching hospitals when they can’t figure out what is going on, when there are complications, or when they have run out of treatment options”[ii]. A 2002 literature review by John Z Ayanian and Joel S Weissman looking at teaching hospitals and quality of care found that “for common conditions, particularly in elderly patients, major teaching hospitals generally offer better care than do nonteaching hospitals”[iii]. It is this commitment to delivering excellent care that attracts the best and the brightest to our teaching hospitals.
Reason #3: Leading Edge Research and Treatment
One of the reasons teaching hospitals are highly regarded and able to offer such excellent care is because of the research and clinical trials that are undertaken within them. This ensures our Teaching hospitals lead new treatments and cures. The possibility of being at the forefront of medical breakthroughs is a strong reason for choosing to work at a teaching hospital. But you don’t have to be at the forefront of research to benefit from this aspect of a teaching hospital: the culture of teaching hospitals ensures that these analyses and breakthroughs are shared throughout the institution. Silbersweig argues, “only academic medical centers can provide the environment and expertise that advance the practice of medicine, and ultimately the health of society”.
Reason #4: Publishing Research
Being involved in leading-edge research doesn’t only advance the care you are able to offer patients, there are personal advantages too. First, the ability to stay ahead in your chosen field. Second, publishing research or being co-author on an important paper based on the research conducted at your teaching hospital offers opportunities for career advancement you simply can’t get at another institution. One of the world’s most internationally recognized[iv] medical journals, the BMJ, references the following benefits of publication for your career: “Career advancement. International recognition. Advancing medicine. An influx of funding. These are just a few of the benefits associated with publishing medical research in a peer-reviewed journal with a high impact factor.”[v]
Reason #5: Travel
The benefits of participating in leading-edge research expand your boundaries beyond advancing standards of care and advancing your career. The possibility of national and international travel to present research findings are another major benefit. While the prospect of international travel might not be attractive to physicians who are already struggling to balance work and life with the needs of a young family or the other demands of home life, the prospect of being paid to present your findings to other leaders in your field in international centers of excellence is an undeniable attraction to some. If you have this opportunity, it’s worth referring to the presentation tips offered by the American College of Physicians (ACP)[vi].
Reason #6: More Opportunities to Learn
In training young doctors, Lara Goitein argues, “Medical education is essentially a verbal tradition: knowledge is imparted by physicians talking and demonstrating what they mean at the patient’s bedside much more than through the written word”[vii]. It is in this that the teaching hospital offers the greatest opportunities to nurture your talent.
Reason #7: Being Mentored
The Institute of Clinical Research Education states, “Mentoring is the key for developing and sustaining a satisfying professional career”[viii]. The greater potential to connect with mentors is another powerful reason to choose to work at a teaching hospital[ix]. Compare this with the talent pool with whom you are able to connect in a small rural hospital and you can clearly see the advantage of working in a teaching hospital in terms of finding someone from whom you can learn – and make a valuable personal connection.
Reason #8: Being a Mentor
The advantage of this wider talent pool in teaching hospitals works both ways. For more senior caliber staff, the opportunity to share your knowledge with passionate and motivated junior staff is compelling. Being a mentor is a rewarding experience and the Teaching Hospital environment offers far more potential for connecting with others whom not only share your specialty but whom share your passion.
Reason #9: Improved Career Prospects
For all these reasons, a teaching hospital offers one other major advantage: improved career prospects. Whether through mentoring, research, published articles or simply exposure to leading-edge treatments and technologies and high-caliber peers, working at a teaching hospital is good for your career.
Reason #10: Better Job Satisfaction
What’s more, the culture of excellence and the enhanced opportunity for learning and knowledge-sharing in a teaching hospital are important contributors to increased job satisfaction. In an age when we are seeing a crisis in physician burnout and high numbers of people leaving the profession, job satisfaction is more important than ever – both on a personal level and for the profession and service as a whole. Of course, there is a role for mentors in modeling and supporting work-home balance[x], but the spiritual satisfaction of delivering the highest quality of care and sharing knowledge with peers and juniors helps to recharge depleted batteries and reconnect physicians with the reasons they went into the career in the first place.
Whatever stage you are in your career, working in a teaching hospital can be an incredibly rewarding experience; helping you to develop your career while offering you an opportunity to give back to those just starting theirs.