Discussions about professional development tend to focus on medical practice staff entering the field, who have much to learn, and those at the end of their careers, who have much to teach. There’s an assumption that individuals learn as they go, but there can be several years, even decades, where it can feel like they’re just plugging away.
Christopher Lee, MPH, CPHQ, clinical solutions marketing manager for Family Health Centers of San Diego, finds that once practices hire qualified personnel, many small practices do not necessarily invest in further development of their staff—to their own detriment. “Many of them are just humming along doing the same things they’ve always been doing,” he says, adding that makes it even more important for staff to advance their own career. “[Career advancement] is something people have to take the initiative to do.”
Professional development is important to medical practice staff at all stages of their careers. However, mid-career development may be especially important for those staff who are ready to advance their skill set to maintain peak performance, increase earnings, improve their marketability, or prepare for a job transition. This development can reinvigorate daily work and drive staff forward, but it can also be overwhelming. Here are six ways medical practice staff can advance their careers.
Identify skills gap
Wendy Terwelp, a career coach who works with healthcare professionals of all kinds and founder of Opportunity Knocks of Wisconsin, says staff should not wait for practice managers and other bosses to green light their professional development—even if there is no or limited financial support. “If you don’t continue your training and professional development, that hurts your career more than anything else,” she says.
She says medical practice staff should start by identifying their skills gap. She suggests staff ask their bosses what areas in the practice are currently unfulfilled or need improvement. In some skill sets, such as medical billing or coding, it may make sense to pursue a higher certification or a next level course.
Carol Aiken, CMM CPAR, clinical operations administrator of Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine in Huntsville, Ala., has seen the difference training makes in her more than 30 years of practice administration. “It’s very difficult to work in a medical office and just learn on the job,” she says.
Set achievement goals
It’s important to have a career advancement goal in mind, says Andrea Clement, the Atlanta-based director of communications for The Medicus Firm, a national healthcare recruiting firm. “What skills do you want to add—and why? What new role are you aiming for?”
Clement recommends practice staff who are not sure what would make sense in terms of career advancement talk to their supervisors to see what opportunities may be available and what they might need to do to qualify for them.
Assessment tools can help staff identify the next likely area of focus or advancement, many of which are often offered through professional medical associations, certification programs, or courses in a given skill set.