The Second Physician

February 22, 2010

I was talking a couple of weeks ago to an internist. She had been in solo practice for a couple of years, and then she hired a former co-resident as a second physician. He left the practice after less than two years, and she has since hired a second “second physician.” I told her that I am currently in the process of finding someone for my practice.

I was talking a couple of weeks ago to an internist. She had been in solo practice for a couple of years, and then she hired a former co-resident as a second physician. He left the practice after less than two years, and she has since hired a second “second physician.” I told her that I am currently in the process of finding someone for my practice.

During the course of the conversation, I couldn’t help but think back to when I was first hired at my old practice. When I was the second person. It’s a tough transition - for the new person, for the senior partner, for the staff, and for the patients. Even for new patients.

I still remember the sting of being told by patients that they had really wanted an appointment with Dr. Senior, but they couldn’t get in to see him soon enough, so they got me instead. Ouch. Well, most of them decided I wasn’t so bad after all, and actually were glad to see me in follow-up, or at least weren’t upset that they weren’t seeing their first choice.

Well, what could I expect? My senior partner had been in practice in the community for over 12 years when I came around. All the local docs knew him. They spoke very highly of him to their patients. Who was this newcomer? Is she any good? It took years before I was recognized as my own person, someone worthy of sending patients to, someone to refer family to.

The staff had done things the same way for years. My partner’s way. He was the boss. He set the tone of the office. Sure, there were things I did my way, but it was often met with resistance. “Are you sure? Dr. Senior doesn’t do it that way.” And when we hired a third partner, he was met with the same reluctance to change things. “This is the way we do things around here; it’s how we’ve always done it.”

So when I bring a new physician on board, I plan to have new patients scheduled with her. I’m sure many of them will have been referred to me by their PCP’s, or that they will have heard about me from family and friends. Will they give my staff a hard time about scheduled with “the new doctor?” To make matters worse, she’ll be straight out of fellowship, just like I was.

I’m sure she’ll have her own unique way of doing things. Will my staff be flexible enough to handle it? Will I? Will she?

I hope for her sake that the transition will be minimally painful. I’d hate to have to look for a second “second” and start yet another transition.