Before you begin seeking a new position in the healthcare field—be it your first position or your tenth position—it’s a good idea to determine which practice setting you feel is best suited for you. Every physician has their own set of values regarding what is the ideal practice setting, and each setting does come with its own pros and cons. Here is a look at some of the most common types of practice settings to consider as you seek a new position in your ideal practice setting.
Solo practices, also known as private practices, are more traditional and were more common in the past, but they remain a preferred option for many physicians. Solo practices typically employ a small staff led by one physician and have a limited patient base. Having a solo practice grants physicians the autonomy of designing and growing the practice setting as they see fit. In addition, having a limited patient base means that you can develop close, personal relationships with your patients. One disadvantage to having a solo practice is that the burden of running the practice runs entirely on the physician. There are also the possibilities of low referral rate and substantial financial risk.
A group practice is an especially popular choice among physicians who have just recently completed residency. This type of practice might host as few as three physicians, or as many as several hundred. There are two basic types of group practices: single-specialty and multi-specialty.
In a single-specialty practice, there are two or more physicians providing patients with one specific type of care (e.g., primary care or orthopedic care). One advantage to this type of group practice setting is that there are fewer competing interests, and this typically makes for faster decision making. It is also easier to share call coverage between physicians involved in the same specialty. In addition, since there is less overhead, incomes tend to be higher.
In a multi-specialty group practice, meanwhile, various types of medical specialty care are provided within one organization. There will typically be a mixture of primary care physicians and related specialists, such as surgical and internal medicine specialists. One benefit to this type of group practice is that specialists can receive direct referrals from primary care physicians, while primary care physicians can serve as a reliable resource for consults and can offer continuity in care. Overhead does tend to be higher in a group practice, however, so incomes may be lower in a multi-specialty group setting. In a multi-specialty practice, there also exists a greater chance of there being competing interests or political rifts.
Employed Physician Practice
Employed physician practices represent an alternative practice model, where a hospital may purchase and manage an existing solo or group practice, or directly hire physicians to work in their inpatient facility and ambulatory clinics. One advantage of this model is that much of the administrative burden of running the practice is shifted over to the employing entity, allowing physicians to spend more time focused on practicing medicine. In addition, there is typically greater compensation assurance, and physicians will have access to more resources such as support services and further education. The downside to this model, however, is that there is usually less autonomy, and some policies and procedures could be formed outside of the employed physicians’ control.
Locum tenens can be a great option for physicians who want to work in a variety of practice settings and who are seeking an alternative to permanent employment. Locum tenens physicians typically work with healthcare staffing agencies to fill temporary needs, which may last anywhere from a few weeks to an entire year. A physician might be placed in a practice, hospital, or healthcare organization. Often, the compensation for a locum tenens position is higher than it is for a permanent position. While of course the position is not long-term, it does give a physician the opportunity to gain experience in a particular setting without having to commit to anything long-term.