The best practices for improving time management as a spine surgeon

Written by Anuja Vaidya | November 08, 2018 | Print  |

Five spine surgeons share their best tips for better time management.

Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. We invite all spine surgeon and specialist responses.

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Please send responses to Anuja Vaidya at by Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 5 p.m. CST.

Question: What is your best advice for improving time management in your professional life?

J. Brian Gill, MD. Spine Surgeon at Nebraska Spine Hospital (Omaha): The best advice that I have to offer is to make sure your professional priorities reflect the amount of time you spend on those priorities. It is very easy to get distracted throughout the day, week, month, etc., as issues arise. You can be pulled in various directions trying to solve the immediate crisis at that particular moment. Where your priorities fall is where you will spend your time. Your time management will improve once you understand your priorities.

Rob D. Dickerman, DO, PhD. Director of Neurosurgery at Presbyterian Hospital of Plano (Texas) and Director of Spine Surgery at Medical Center Frisco (Texas): Having a good professional team around you is key for time management and getting this done properly.

Brian R. Gantwerker, MD. Founder of the Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: Parallel tasking, when not in the operating room, works best. Maybe a more appropriate term is 'weaving.' For instance, during clinic time, if there is a time lag when waiting for a patient to be roomed or other gap, I fill it with going through faxes, viewing follow-up imaging or sending response emails. Phone calls with patients are actually better done during lunch hour, when you know they will be near their phones. I find I have a lot less to do at the end of the day. Having efficient EMR software and well-developed organizational skills are important, but even if your EMR is atrocious and your desk is a mess, the act of clearing off said mess is a great way to get things done and stay caught up.

Christian Zimmerman, MD. Spinal Neurosurgeon at Saint Alphonsus Medical Group and SAHS Neuroscience Institute (Boise, Idaho): The best advice for time management in one's professional life centers around relevance to patient care and being circumspect in that awareness. Healthcare and its delivery has changed dramatically since the eighties and nineties, with consolidation, reduction and over usage as targeted areas of cost containment and revision. These predicates have prompted more withholds in care and reimbursements, redesigning the emphasis care models by hospital and physician alike. Necessary or not, the prescient physician will be mindful of change and continue to focus one's effort on patient care and surgical outcomes. These parameters are sustaining in a competitive workplace.

Vladimir Sinkov, MD. Spine Surgeon at New Hampshire Orthopaedic Center (Nashua): Plan ahead and make a schedule. It sounds simple, but with busy clinics and operative schedules it is easy to forget or neglect other parts of professional life such as continued education, learning new techniques and treatments, practice management and marketing, etc. If you block a specific time for those activities, it is much easier to manage them in a timely fashion. Try to eliminate or limit spending time on non-productive activities, such as administrative meetings that do not add value to your practice or do not promote your agenda and meetings with industry representatives unless you are truly interested in learning more about their products.

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