Finding the Right Practice

June 16, 2011

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By Amanda Eidson
Manager of Training Program Outreach
Hospital Corporation of America

As you near the completion of residency, you will undoubtedly find that there are numerous practice opportunities available in your chosen specialty. With the variety and number of positions being advertised to physicians today, how do you find the right practice opportunity?

You may think that with the long hours, high demands, and pressures of residency, there simply isn’t enough time to effectively plan for your transition from training into practice. However, taking just a few hours to evaluate your personal desires, professional goals, and the needs of your family can help to focus your practice search and ultimately save valuable time in finding the right practice.

First, where do you want to live? Selecting a location can be one of the most important decisions you will make. Have you always wanted to live by the ocean or do you envision yourself living in the mountains? Are you looking for a metropolitan area, the suburbs, or a rural location? What type of climate would be ideal? Are you looking to be a part of a certain cultural community? Determining the geographic locations that are of most interest to you and your family can help to narrow your practice search and make the number of available opportunities more manageable to consider.

What family ties are involved? Physicians in training often have to move away from their extended families while completing medical school, residency and fellowship programs. Once your training is complete, do you want to live closer to your family, your spouse or significant other’s family, or do you need to find a location that is geographically centered between both? For physicians who have or plan to have children, proximity to your parents, grandparents, and other family members can be a key consideration, both for childcare purposes and for facilitating the kind of relationship you desire for your children to have with their extended family.

What about your spouse’s career? Does your spouse need to be in a certain location in order to have sufficient job opportunities in his or her chosen field? If your spouse wants to stay with a current employer, are there other company locations that could offer transfer possibilities? Is your spouse considering going back to school or pursuing additional training that would require proximity to specific educational institutions? If your spouse is a physician, it will be important to find a location that is able to support both of your practice specialties and preferred structures. Make sure that you are considering areas that can meet both you and your spouse’s professional needs.

What hobbies and other interests do you hope to pursue? With the type of schedule you have to keep while in training, it can be hard to believe that you will eventually have free time outside of medicine—but you will! Therefore, you want to make sure that your leisure activities can be fully supported in the area you choose. If you love to surf, you probably don’t want to live in the Midwest. If you love to ski, you might not be as happy living in the Southeast. If you love going to the theater or having great restaurants nearby, you might prefer a more metropolitan location. Take time to carefully consider your passions and interests outside of medicine and make sure you are looking at opportunities and areas that will allow you to pursue those things as well.

Is the amount of loan repayment an issue? Physicians today often have hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt, and the burden of carrying that debt can be overwhelming. Some locations, especially those in more rural or medically underserved areas, can offer loan repayment incentives to physicians who establish practice in those communities. If eliminating your student loan debt is a top priority, you might want to strongly consider locations that qualify for loan repayment assistance.

Finally, what kind of practice do you want? Are you looking to start your own solo practice or practice as part of a group? Would you prefer working with a small single-specialty group of neurologists, or are you hoping to practice as part of a larger group so that you can focus on a particular sub-specialty? Do you want to eventually become a partner in a private practice, or would you rather work as an employee of a practice, hospital, or health care system? Whichever form of practice you choose, be sure that you carefully consider the partners, hospital affiliations, call requirements, and community need for your specialty with each opportunity that you evaluate.

Take time to think through and answer these questions before you begin the process of applying and interviewing for available opportunities so that you are better equipped to find a location and practice where you and your family will be happy for years to come.

Amanda Eidson currently serves as the Manager of Training Program Outreach for HCA's Central Group, where she works to educate physicians in training on the business side of medicine and how to successfully transition from training to practice.

Prior to her current role, Eidson worked as a Physician Recruiter—with her primary focus on Neurology and Neurosurgery recruitment—with HCA’s National Recruitment team. Eidson received her Bachelor of Science, with double majors in Human and Organizational Development and Economics, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.