Survey: Doctors that Move to Private Practice are Happier

November 12, 2014

A recent survey reveals that physicians who leave employment for private practice are happier than those that leave private practice for employment.

I was looking at a recent physician satisfaction report. For the most part, it was the usual stuff. I wasn’t surprised that of the 4,600 physicians surveyed, employed physicians reported having less financial risk, fewer administrative responsibilities, and better work/life balance. It also made sense that self-employed physicians reported having more clinical autonomy, greater decision-making authority, and greater earning potential.

But one part of the report really stood out: Doctors moving from employment to self-employment are happier than those who make the opposite move. In fact, 70 percent of those who became self-employed said they are happier now.

If you’re thinking about moving from employment to private practice, joining a new practice, or even becoming an independent locum tenens physician, there are a couple of things you should know.

First: Regardless of specialty, the job market is very competitive. Second: It takes more than strong clinical skills to land a great job.

Here are a few things practice owners are looking for when bringing on a new physician.

Good communication skills. Now more than ever, practices are looking for doctors who can communicate with patients. It’s not enough to correctly identify an illness; a physician needs to be able to clearly - and simply - explain a diagnosis, a treatment plan, and patient responsibilities. Not only does this clarity result in better patient outcomes but higher patient satisfaction as well. Happy patients are more likely to come back, which is obviously good for the practice’s bottom line.

A team player. Like any team, a practice needs all different types of players. When hiring, practice owners aren’t looking for physicians with the same skills and personalities they already have; instead, they want to bring someone on who will both complement the existing staff and make the practice stronger. Being part of the team also means forming genuine relations, gaining trust, and being flexible when it comes to covering call schedules or filling in for vacations.

A competent multi-tasker. Private practice physicians are expected to do more than just deliver care. Owners want someone who is comfortable wearing many hats and who is willing to pitch in wherever needed. That means working with insurance payers, managing staff, and keeping an eye on the books - all while handling the day-to-day interactions with patients.

Solid education and work history. In a competitive job market, strong clinical skills are a basis requirement, not a differentiator. But if all things are equal between two job candidates, practice owners will generally choose the physician with the stronger background. If you’re looking to make your job experience stand out, consider taking locum tenens assignments on top of your day job. Working in a different practice setting will not only sharpen your skills, but will differentiate you from your competitors.

Not sure if private practice is for you? Check out The 6 Characteristics Hospitals Look for in Physicians.