In a recent meeting with one of our most senior surgeons and a relatively new surgeon, the discussion revolved around the older physician's extremely successful career. It was one of those moments that locks into your memory as the senior doc stated the following, "If you want to be successful, you need to embrace the three "A's." To which we all moved forward in our chairs with an obvious question mark in our eyes.
He said, "You must be available all the time, 24/7. When the calls come, you need to say, 'Yes, I'll be there.' It doesn't matter if it is morning, noon or night, drop what you are doing, and make yourself available."
Then he said, "You must be affable. Affability is the key to continued support from the various primary care physicians who will refer to you. If you are not polite, pleasantly easy to approach and talk to, cordial, courteous, warm and friendly, neither the patients nor the referring physicians will be inclined to continue to refer to you."
Finally, he said with a smile on his face, "You must have ability." To which he went on to add, "and ability, by the way, is a very distant third priority in this scenario. People will tolerate imperfection if you are available and affable."
So, there you have it: Availability, Affability, and Ability. I watched curiously at the wheels turning in the young doc's mind. I'm not sure that his training has ever embraced such simple, common sense advice.