Journal Notes: JGME’s Clinician Educator Career Development Rip Out Series Shows How to Be Happy and Effective in Your Role

October 5, 2023

For those going through medical school, applying to residency, then progressing to independent practice, there is a structured and well-tread pathway. For some, however, becoming a clinician educator is a different journey. Often, those starting out perceive as many pathways as there are travelers, with most physicians learning on the job as they go.

This ambiguity led editors of the Journal of Graduate Medical Education (JGME) editors to launch the Clinician Educator Career Development Rip Out Series, installments of which are all now available under Rip Out Collections on the journal’s website. Like other Rip Outs, these are unique JGME articles designed as simple, two-page, action-oriented reads for graduate medical educators written by those with expertise and experience on the topic. They all follow the same format: The Challenge; What Is Known; How You Can Start TODAY; and What You Can Do LONG TERM. For those navigating such a career, these articles can serve as practical guides.

The challenge, of course, goes further than how to find career success. Equally important is how to be happy and effective in the role. For JGME Deputy and Rip Out Editor Dr. Deb Simpson, PhD, the issue for clinician educators usually boils down to finding the answer to two questions: “What do I care about?” and “What will my work afford (i.e., what are the priorities of my organization and associated resources)?” The key to feeling fulfilled, according to Dr. Simpson, is “finding the sweet spot” between the two. Where do your passions intersect with what your institution values? Every Rip Out in this series focuses on some aspect of this challenge.

The most recent addition to the collection came out in August with Mid to Senior Clinician Educator Career Transitions and Vitality. It examines the stage in one’s career when values might be shifting. Perhaps the duties that were previously a means to achieve early-career ascent are now less satisfying, and changes need to be made. How do those at the mid or senior level want to spend their time and be valued going forward? This Rip Out encourages mid- or senior-level clinician educators to look at their evolving priorities, and offers advice on planning ahead personally, financially, and professionally.

Another theme running throughout this series is having a strong support network and making connections. Dr. Simpson recounts her own story about receiving a dinner invitation early in her career as a junior faculty member. She was nervous about attending, knowing she’d be surrounded by highly respected senior people in her field. “I didn’t know any of these people. What was I supposed to talk about?” she recalls thinking. “My only goal was not to spill food on my blouse and not to embarrass myself or my mentor. But I went and I listened. And that networking event has given me opportunities throughout my career. Two of the people at that dinner are still mentors.”

For Dr. Simpson, though, connection goes further than helping your career. She also references US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy’s recent book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, and how important connection is to humans. “Do you talk to the janitor who cleans your office?” she asks. “Do you let people know they are appreciated? Just that bit of connection goes a long way to finding fulfillment. That thread runs through all the Rip Outs in this series.”

If you are new to your career as a clinician educator or thinking about such a career, other Rip Outs in this series may be for you: Shaping a Career as a Clinician Educator; Coaching for Clinician Educators; Demonstrating Clinician Educator Value; and Reclaiming the Calendar: Time Management for the Clinician Educator. The Rip Outs are quick reads, available for free, and can be downloaded for easy reference.

In the next blog post in this Journal Notes series, Dr. Simpson will discuss another Rip Out series that may be of particular interest during job search season: Career Transitions. Stay tuned to the ACGME Blog, and let us know what other Rip Outs you’d like to see by emailing JGME would love to hear from you!

Guest blogger Kevin Gladish is a staff editor for the Journal of Graduate Medical Education. He’s been at the ACGME since 2016, and is also a performer, writer, and storyteller.