Working with specialist physicians in Australia since 2008 I have coached hundreds of doctors through their next career move. For senior doctors a new job is 9 times out of 10 life-changing, sometimes involving the relocation of the whole family. This can be a daunting task, even more so when taking the leap from working in the public sector to setting up a private practice.
Here are some of the most common concerns that I hear from doctors who are nervous about entering the private world:
Financial Risk - Many doctors express concern that they will not have enough patients or referrals to make money, yet there is no secret that doctors earn significantly more in the private sector. Private hospitals and practices are motivated to set you up to succeed and have already managed the risk before you even start. Often you can commence in a salaried position, if you wish to play it safe, and move to a fee split arrangement later when you are more confident of your earning potential.
Isolation - The fear of working alone and becoming professionally isolated is another major concern. Moving from a large team of colleagues to working in relative isolation can be a worrying thought. However, many practices can offer a fantastic local network with established forums for collegiate support. Your specialty colleges and societies can put you in touch with groups of peers in your region. If no pre-existing forums are there, why not create one? This is a great platform to network in your area and showcase your expertise, a sure-fire way to generate local awareness and ultimately referrals!
Career progression - Where else can I go? This is another worry for some doctors. When you enter into the private world you become your own boss, top of the food chain and yes the buck stops with you. What this offers however is complete autonomy to be creative and manage your business in line with your ethics, ideals and of course your work-life balance. Additionally through links with your college and local hospital you can still expand your profile. Why not take on an educational or management role?
Competition - Who else is operating in the region? How established are they? Will I be able to generate referrals from the community if they are loyal to my competitors? It is important to research the demographics and existing services in your specialty, but unless you are blindly opening a solo practice in an area where you have no connections, with no support from a hospital or practice then it is rarely an issue. Those offering supported business models have already taken this into account. They are aware of patient numbers, referrals and waiting lists, and often the numbers of local patients being transferred out of the district for treatment.
Relationship building - Building successful, long-lasting relationships is business 101. Relationships are built at many levels including the hospital, your support staff, peers, local referring doctors and most importantly your patients. Although this may seem new to you, as a physician you are already an expert in this area. The most important part of developing these new relationships is gaining trust. Trust will build your profile, send referrals your way and will keep your patients coming back.
Taking any new job is a serious consideration and I encourage all doctors to conduct thorough research. All of the concerns listed should be considered earnestly. There are some amazing organisations out there willing to take the initial risk and offer doctors a great platform to create a very successful and rewarding business.
You can minimise the risks as listed above by consulting with an experienced recruiter who can assist you in negotiating your new terms, offer advice on contracts and put you in touch with industry experts in finance, law and business.
Working in private practice can be a satisfying and rewarding career. Will it be hard work? Of course! There is no secret to success.
This weeks guest blogger is Emma Gordon, a Senior Specialist Recruiter at Wavelength International
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