By Juliet Farmer
Dr. Stacey Hudson is an otolaryngologist (ENT) in Reno, Nevada, where he has been in private practice since 2003, as well as assistant clinical professor at University of Nevada, Reno. Hudson graduated from University of Nevada, Reno, in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Human and Community Sciences with high distinction. He then attended graduate medical school at the same university before attending the University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, from 94-98, where he earned his M.D. From 98-03 at the Mayo Clinic’s Mayo Graduate School of Medicine Department of otorhinolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, Dr. Hudson served as a resident in otolaryngology, as well as chief resident associate and instructor in Otolaryngology. Dr. Hudson previously worked at Quail Surgical and Pain Management Center in Reno, as well as Renown South Meadows Medical Center.
Dr. Hudson has made several presentations on numerous subjects, including pediatric ENT disorders; endoscopic treatment of cricopharyngeal disorders; Kikuchi-Fujimoto’s disease in otolaryngology; principles of treating mid-face injuries; perilymphatic fistulas diagnosis and treatment; surgical usage of lasers in otolaryngology; obstructive sleep apnea; facial plastics; velopharyngeal incompetency (VPI) in adenotonsillar surgery; lip reconstruction options in head & neck cancer surgery; surgical options in giant esophageal fibrovascular polyps; and imaging modalities in head & neck surgery. He is a member of the American College of Surgeons; American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery; American Academy of Otolaryngologic Allergy; and Washoe County Medical Association. Dr. Hudson has volunteered extensively, most recently with Project New Hope – Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center, as well as the Craniofacial Clinic – University of Nevada, Reno.
When did you first decide to become an ENT? Why?
I was about 22 years old when I started thinking about ENT. At the time, I was working in the operating room and was able to work with several different types of surgeons. I thought that the actual surgeries being done were interesting in ENT as I had had some ENT problems as a child. Plus, I felt that the ENTs were the ones that had a better disposition and seemed happier with their lives.
How/why did you choose the medical school you went to?
I chose my home state medical school because of cost and selection criteria. I had known several individuals that had become ENT physicians going through the program. So I had thought that if they could do it, I could as well.
What surprised you the most about your ENT studies?
The residency and the private practice are worlds apart. You spend as much time in the hospital as any surgical residency, but when you go into private practice a larger portion of your life is in the clinic/office setting.
If you had it to do all over again, would you still become an ENT? (Why or why not? What would you have done instead?)
Yes; I enjoy doing what I do. I find that it is a specialty that allows you a large amount of area to master. Most people think that ENT is a rather narrow area of practice. But the anatomical complexity above the shoulders is much more intricate than that below. Each field within ENT is a field of its own as well. So it allows you to be able to delve more into areas that interest you such as otology, rhinology, head and neck surgery, pediatrics, etc. If I hadn’t done ENT, I probably would have done General surgery because I do like the ability to operate and fix things.
Has being an ENT met your expectations? Why?
Yes; it has been a very rewarding field and I enjoy it. About the only negatives to this field is that healthcare in general is under attack with the constant changes by government. The paperwork is increasing exponentially, the regulations are increasing exponentially, and nobody really is helping to improve the practice of medicine by any of it.
What do you like most about being an ENT?
It’s very challenging both mentally and physically.
What do you like least about being an ENT?
Some other physicians do not understand much about our given field. We make up a very small percentage of all physicians, and as such, most other medical doctors really have no understanding of what we do. It makes for a somewhat lonely profession.
What was it like finding a job in your chosen career field? What were your options and why did you decide what you did?
Finding a position should not be difficult. There are not many ENTs trained every year, and by and large most ENTs are nearing the age of retirement. I decided to go into practice for myself so that is becoming more of a rarity. I did it because I like the ability to run my own practice from the ground up.
Describe a typical day at work.
Generally if I am in the office I am there by 7:45 a.m. and I see patients all day until noon. Starting back at 1 p.m., I see patients until about 5 p.m. and finish up documentation and attend any meetings that I may need to go to. However, if the day is a surgery day, I am in the operating room at 7:30 a.m. and go until I am finished with cases.
Do you work with mid-level providers (NPs, Pas, CRNAs, etc.), and if so, what kind(s)?
I do not work with any in my office at this time. I do, however, have several that refer to me, such as APNs and PAs for consultations, and sometimes they may have questions or need advice regarding patients that they are seeing in the office.
On average: How many hours a week do you work? How many hours do you sleep per night? How many weeks of vacation do you take?
About 50 hours is about a normal work week for me. Sleeping generally depends on call (which is home call, mostly). Personally, I take about two weeks of vacation a year, but I know that others like to take more.
Are you satisfied with your income?
In a word, no. As a self-employed physician, you run your own practice, so the added stress of managing your practice and seeing patients is a bit overwhelming. Unlike most physicians that take employed positions, I see how things are deteriorating progressively as far as reimbursement goes.
If you took out educational loans, is/was paying them back a financial strain?
Yes. It is difficult to see that while reimbursement continues to decrease all other expenses of running a private practice climb. Paying back your loans, however, is ever present. I think that it would be fair to tell future surgeons that they will make slightly more than an APN or PA, but will owe twice as much.
In your position now, knowing what you do – what would you say to yourself when you started your ENT career?
If you can honestly do this and be happy making slightly more than the nursing staff, then go ahead. Otherwise, consider other options.
What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were beginning your medical studies?
Stop and smell the roses. ENT is extremely competitive and is difficult to get into, overly so.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in healthcare today?
Everyone wants the best. No one wants to pay for it.
Where do you see ENT in 10 years?
I see a severe manpower shortage in all specialties in 10 years. The average age of an ENT physician is upper 50s to early 60s. Most–if not all–physicians will begin shortening their careers, because medicine simply is not what it used to be. As the nation ages (Baby Boomers), we will be left to care for many more patient than we are able to with our current health care force. This, coupled with the trend of increasing employed physicians rather than self-employed physicians, will add to the workforce shortage.
What types of outreach/volunteer work do you do, if any?
I take call at four emergency rooms. I do not need to volunteer, as 95 percent of all care delivered in the emergency room is gratis.
Do you have family? If so, do you have enough time to spend with them? How do you balance work and life outside of work?
Yes I have family, but no I do not have enough time to spend with them. I don’t think you will find any surgeon that can answer otherwise unless they are nearing retirement.
Do you have any final piece of advice for students interested in pursuing ENT as a career?
What makes an ideal physician is to know people, including themselves. Be honest with yourself and understand that ENT is overly competitive. You may not get in. You must have a back-up plan that you believe will be rewarding. Whether that is general surgery, ophthalmology, dermatology or another medical specialty depends on you and your interests. But definitely make a plan.