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What a Private Practice Can Offer that Hospitals Can’t


By: Lea Chatham Healthcare demand is growing, resulting in lots of job opportunities. Discover the unique opportunities that small practices can offer new employees.

By: Lea Chatham

Healthcare continues to be a fast growing field with many opportunities. As the baby boomer generation ages and the population grows, the demand for healthcare services is expected to increase by 22 percent by 2020. There is a need for physicians, but for each doctor there is also a need for at least three other people to provide clerical, billing, and patient care support. So it isn’t surprising that healthcare is a great place to look for a job.

There are many options to choose: Large healthcare enterprises like hospitals and smaller independent practices are two in particular. They offer different things. Working in a small practice may be a better option for providers and staff who want a more intimate experience with greater autonomy and flexibility.

For physicians, there has been a trend towards employment instead of self-employment or partnership, especially for newly minted doctors. However, that appears to be slowing. Studies have shown that 70 percent of newly self-employed physicians were happier after they made the switch, while only 49 percent of newly employed doctors were happier than they had been when they were self-employed. In addition, physicians who work for hospitals have less autonomy and decision-making power, compared with self-employed physicians.

If the ability to control your own destiny is a priority then self-employment or an arrangement with a smaller practice probably makes more sense. It provides the opportunity to determine how the practice will be structured and how you will care for patients. This is what James Libecco, a dermatologist and owner of Akron Skin Center, was looking for when he left Cleveland Clinic to buy a practice of his own. “I wanted the opportunity to have more personal and lasting relationships with patients and customize the practice to my style,” he explained. His practice has become very successful, and Libecco attributes this to a combination of, “taking good care of patients, taking care of your providers and staff, and providing really good service.”

Taking good care of staff is often a hallmark of successful small practices and a reason to consider employment there. Job satisfaction and work/life balance are important for many people and small businesses can sometimes provide this more effectively than larger ones. For all intents and purposes a small practice is a small business and the same factors apply. And there are many other good reasons to choose a small business as your place of employment:

• More autonomy: In a small practice, employees are often more independent because there is less bureaucracy and each person needs to be responsible for their tasks.

• Direct access to management: The physician or practice manage is likely going to be the boss and will be easily accessible.

• Learning opportunities: Working in a small practice can give you the opportunity to learn all aspects of the business.

• Build personal relationships: Patients in a small practice build a relationship with the physician and staff. It’s a chance to help people and build a relationship with them.

• Your success is noticeable: In a small practice your accomplishments and successes are visible to everyone and make a real impact on the business. It’s an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in your community.

• Change happens faster: While everyone is a little adverse to change, a small practice is more nimble than a larger hospital. If there is a good reason to make change - like adding new software - it can be much easier in a small practice.

There are certainly upsides to working in a hospital as well, like better benefits packages. But the downsides can be a lack of input into the operations, access to leadership, and recognition for your contributions.

“Working in a small practice lets me be hands on in every aspect of patient care, and everyday there is a new challenge to tackle,” said Joan Ross, office manager at the practice of Melvyn H. Rech, DO, PA. “But what I love most of all is the family feel of our small practice world!”

This sentiment was echoed by Bonnie Dominick, billing manager at Associated Family Practice, who added, “I like working in a small practice because I feel more a part of the decision making, and like I am an important part of a team/family not just a number.”

Whether you are a physician or staff person, if you are looking for the chance to have more impact and autonomy then working in a small, independent practice is probably for you.

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