Recruiting the right acute care surgeon for your trauma center is a difficult challenge. The key is to find a candidate with the right mix of clinical abilities and interpersonal skills. And while certain characteristics are desirable in a trauma surgeon, other traits are indicators to proceed with caution.
Following are four red flags to watch for when assessing physician candidates for your trauma medical staff:
1. Not board certified within five years. Failure to pass board exams within a few years of graduation could indicate fundamental problems in clinical skill, cause major problems with medical staff credentialing, and actually lead to increased malpractice premiums. Focus on finding a board-certified general surgeon with trauma experience and, ideally, added qualifications in surgical critical care. An acceptable alternative is a new physician who is making strong progress toward board certification.
2. Multiple residency programs. Working in three different residency programs to finish a five-year training course may indicate issues. The physician may lack focus, or they may have trouble getting along with colleagues. Look for candidates who are able to “bloom where they are planted.” One positive sign: The candidate was chosen to do a fellowship at the same program where they did their general surgery.
3. Multiple divergent fellowships. Training in several unrelated specialties could indicate that the physician has had trouble securing a job. The candidate may have jumped from a transplant fellowship to a surgical endoscopy fellowship before entering training for acute care surgery. However, there are several fellowships which are complementary, such as critical care and burns, or trauma and critical care.
4. Vague evaluations. Strong evaluations include examples of a candidate's outcomes, practice style and interactions with others. Vague evaluations with few details and just a few adjectives may indicate that evaluators are reluctant to talk substance. Even less talented surgeons should be able to find three evaluators who have something good to say, so vague comments could indicate real problems with the candidate.
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