Tips for the New Attending Physician

It may be a little jarring to say the words, “I am the attending physician today,” when dealing with your first patient alone. Any career move is full of challenges, but taking the steps from resident to attending physician is what you’ve been training for during the last 8 plus years in school. Chances are, you will be staying in the same hospital you completed your clinical rotations in, and you’re already familiar with the area.

And, it’s true, there are a lot of things you’ll be without the direct supervision of another attending physician, but you’re never alone. You know your stuff and now it’s time to show it. Here are some tips that will help make the move from resident to attending physician a little easier.

5 Tips for the New Attending Physician

Whatever your medical specialty, your role shift out of resident physician can bring a lot of stress (especially on the first day). But there are many ways you can combat any type of attending physician fears:

1. Be Confident

You’ve just come out of a role many permanent physicians see as a “worker bee.” However, it’s not uncommon for attending supervisors to begin treating you differently in your new role. If asked a question about patient management, be confident in your answer. Nine times out of ten, your gut answer is best. In this field, being confident in your reasoning for specific treatment is key. Communication is the cornerstone of proper patient care, so if you need help with confidence, practice your answers before speaking with your supervisor.

2. Check Your Ego

With previous doctors treating you as more of their equal, it’s easy to develop a big ego. As the new attending physician, you are going to feel like a larger part of the decision-making team. But even though you’ve finally “made it,” you are lack experience. It can be tough balancing being direct and being seen as taking over power; but if never hesitate to ask for help if you need it. Trust me, no one will see you as incompetent when it comes to the best patient care.

3. Remain Professional

Hospitals are filled with stressful situations. As a medical professional, knowing how to handle yourself during one can say a lot about your work ability in the eyes of another physician. Whether it’s patient care, or dealing with another attending physician, keeping your cool in tense times can only help your chances of success.

4. Form Relationships

As a new attending, you will be working with a new team of people. Taking time in the morning to greet your surgeons, nurses, and other medical team members help strengthen you as a team. Meeting once a day not only solidifies relationships but keeps work-flow and understanding unified.

5. Make Good Lifestyle Choices

With most career promotions, comes a pay raise. As a new attending physician, your first paycheck is going to be A LOT larger than your first resident paycheck. But, it is important to be smart with saving your money. If you can continue living like you did as a resident for a few years after making the transition, you’ll have saved a lot more than buying a house and platinum gym membership right out of the gate. You may want to start investing in your 401k early or work out an alternative savings plan.


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