Friday, March 20, 2015

Poaching staff is not the done thing. Or is it?

It takes a lot of effort to train up a surgical assistant, particularly with complex surgery. Surgeons who have been involved in this process will by virtue of human nature and tradition of self entitlement, feel some sense of ownership for the person that they trained and the expectation of some loyalty.  I am not saying that this is a correct way of thinking but it is human nature.  

Over the past week, two of my surgical assistants were approached by a colleague in my specialty who attempted to entice them away with significantly greater remuneration. The initial reflex response was "How dare he?" and “This is totally non-collegiate”.  Both of them had no interest in changing surgeons but had rightly done their own due diligence to learn more about the surgeon making the offer. They had both come to their own conclusions on the basis of feedback that they would prefer not to work elsewhere in spite of the higher remuneration. 

Initially I felt a little irritated but this was very quickly followed by the rationalisation that we have an open business market in Australia and this type of activity is fair game.  Whilst surgery is associated with a special relationship that the defines the patient-doctor relationship, there is a business side to it that is no different to any other business.  For example, Virgin Australia is free to approach key Qantas staff that it may wish to headhunt for a role in its own organisation.  Even though Qantas may have been invested enormously in training a given individual, they have no ownership of that person’s career destiny.  

Whilst the behaviour of headhunting staff is nothing unusual outside the medical profession, we have to learn to adapt to the fact that we are subject to same market forces and expectations as any other business. The old boys club approach to how we do our business does not cut it anymore.  This is no different to how the medical profession must be expected to deal with issues of sexism and harassment like any other profession with the same transparency and commitment. Time to get to down from the ivory tower.  

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