Gen Y, MD: The Physician Generation Gap

GEN Y Doctor

By DJ Edgerton
The white coat and black bag now belongs to Generation Y. If you’re used to that phrase being employed to describe the school kids babysitting and mowing lawns, the inexorable passage of time might make this a little surprising. This was fodder at this summer’s American College of Physicians meeting (see details here.) In his address, Dr. Lawrence G. Smith, chief medical officer of the North Shore-LIJ Health System and dean of Hofstra University‘s School of Medicine in New York, quoted data from a Merritt Hawkins & Associates survey. Here are some of the highlights:

* Boomer physicians suspect that their younger counterparts have less of a work ethic than they do.
* Gen X doctors want a better work-life balance.
* Gen Y doctors are optimistic, collaborative and conservative.

Smith addressed the Boomers’ fear with the marvelous quote that both younger generations must be “unafraid of falling totally in love with being a doctor”. But, the question is, can the younger generations do this when they fear losing their personal lives, possibly their sanity, to their professional ones?

This is where digital technology – something that’s always been a seamless part of existence for these age groups- can help.

(For more on life experiences year by year, the annual Beloit College Mindset lists are a great resource.)

But if you’ve seen a group of physicians recently at a medical convention or advisory-board meeting you’ve probably noticed them comparing iPhones. And that holds for doctors of any age bracket. Johnson & Johnson, picking up on this, recently released the BlackBag iPhone app. It is a medical-news aggregator, joining a fair contingent of physician-useful apps. But since there are dozens of apps available for medical students – flash cards, reference books, interactive games – these will be just a logical step, not groundbreaking news, for new doctors.

Another aspect of the younger generations’ fluidity with technology – and requirement of a personal life – may be that they create less of a firewall between their professional persona and their personal life. While this can be healthy in some aspects, it could also create a problem, as Harvard Business School faculty and Brigham & Women’s Hospital resident Dr. Sachin Jain noted in a “Perspective” article in the New England Journal of Medicine this month titled “Practicing Medicine in the Age of Facebook”. The rights and wrongs of “friending” your health care provider is a brand new frontier.

Now, given that new physicians are tech-adept, but are working not only with the issues inherent in being a busy professional doing very important work – but also the complications of a growing gray area between their lives as individuals and as physicians – what can you do to help them?

What can you create that can help them connect with their patients? Keep a good work/life balance? Advance in their practice? Become a better clinician?

It might look like an iPhone app, a piece of efficiency-improving appointment-scheduling software, an interactive CME, a grand round with live polling, or a video podcast demonstrating procedures. But better yet, it might look like something that doesn’t even exist yet.

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