'I Feel I Am Successful When I Am Prepared'

April 15, 2012

Juggling motherhood and private practice makes preparation key.

I feel I'm successful when I'm in control and I've reached my goals - really it's as simple as that. However, achieving these objectives is not quite so simple. As a mother of two little ones in addition to running a private practice, it's a juggling act - I'm sure that most physicians in private practice know what I'm talking about.

My most successful days/weeks involve planning. So ideally, every weekend I sit down in front of my iPad and smartphone and spend a couple of hours with Outlook Calendar and Internet Explorer. I start off by taking a look at my schedule for the week and then each day. I prioritize the tasks that need to get done that week. I get a sense of how busy each day looks, when meetings are scheduled, what things need to get mailed, etc., and then I allot time slots for these activities during the week. This is followed by a similar process for my family. Then I'm usually ready for Monday - I think.

I try to wake up early enough to get a 30-minute yoga workout in. I find that I am a lot calmer and feel more in control with all those endorphins swimming around. This usually helps me start the day on a "good vibe."

The key for me is to get to work at least 15 to 30 minutes before patients start. We (my staff and I) use that time to "huddle," during which we review the patients for the day, anticipated labs, diagnostic studies, diabetic patients, etc., and try to plan for the unexpected patient(s). I find this activity to be invaluable and the crux of how successful my day eventually turns out.

These are a few of the dogmas I try to follow everyday:

Communicate with staff and patients. I make an effort to thank staff at the end of the day for yet another busy, but successful day. On the flip side, any staff mishaps are also dealt with on a daily basis. I try to have these communications face to face, but in reality, it is sometimes via a quick e-mail message from my Blackberry, but regardless the message is sent. I feel like this helps keep staff morale up and curbs any unnecessary future mishaps, resulting in a successful day the following day.

Create my own "catch up" time. Whether it's a break between patients or during lunch, I take 10 to 15 minutes in the day just as a breather; to catch up on catching up. I make a few notes to myself for the evening and the next day, and everything else goes on a "stuff" memo which is edited on weekends.

Evenings are for family. After a day's work in the office, I go home and deal with my kids, who haven't seen me all day and are ready to climb all over me; that's the fun part. I set aside two hours every evening to play with them, feed them dinner, and get them ready for bed. Furthermore, on an ideal day, I set aside another 30 minutes or so before bedtime to "close out" the day; send any memos or e-mails needing attention, scroll through some medical articles, and maybe spend time discussing practice-management ideas with my husband. On a not so ideal day, I end up watching "Law and Order"!

On days when it seems that everything is becoming too overwhelming, and I am surrounded by non-compliant patients and irate staff members (and we've all had both of those), here are some other strategies I use:

Anchoring. I have to ask myself "Why am I doing this in the first place?" And the answer is usually followed by a quick "I want to make patients feel better," and a more sluggish "because I went to school for too many years for this." But realistically, I sometimes have to talk to myself and remind myself that being a physician has been largely a rewarding and fulfilling experience, and that being the "supervisor," "office manager," or "boss" is just part of the package in a private practice.

Empowering. Sometimes, in order to be successful, I talk to other colleagues who are successful. I exchange ideas, get advice, and discuss common office issues. I find that most medical practices have similar administrative and medical hurdles, and exchanging ideas has been a great way to help me become successful in my practice. Even social media has contributed to this success. A lot of docs from my medical-school class are on Facebook - sometimes posting a (HIPAA compliant) question on Facebook has resulted in a slew of very useful answers. In particular, when we were transitioning to EHR in my office, certain questions were more easily answered by colleagues who had already transitioned to EHR, instead of re-creating the wheel myself!

Conferences. I don't mean the ones where you spend most of your time sitting at on a beautiful beach in Bali (although, there's nothing wrong with doing that). I have found that attending certain types of conferences consistently has really made me and my practice successful. I find that going to medical conferences is useful in the medical part of my practice. However, personally, I feel I need more help with the administrative part of my practice. Unfortunately, most of us are never taught the business of medicine in medical school.

So, going to practice -management conferences has been wonderfully helpful to my practice. I have picked up on ideas on how to make my practice run smoother. Everything from how many breaks your staff should be allowed to understanding billing and production RVU reports, and a lot of other topics. Also, these conferences have helped me create a network of colleagues who I can turn to when I have a question or am looking for advice on a product or idea, and have been an invaluable part of my success.

So, in a nutshell, planning, being open to new ideas, and keeping staff involved in practice operations has kept me in private practice for the last 10 years or so. This is how my circle of life goes; I hope that it helps some of my readers become more successful.

Deepa Jhaveri, DPM, grew up in India and immigrated to the United States for her education. She is now a podiatric surgeon in private practice in the Boston area, a wife, and mother of two little girls.