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Three Questions Physician Residents are Asking

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Recently, I wrote a report for the trade magazine, Healthcare Executive Exchange, titled “Three Perspectives on the Physician-Shortage Crisis,” in which I interviewed Marissa Schimmel, director of education outreach for the contract management group, Sheridan Healthcare.

Schimmel speaks with residents on a frequent basis about the nature of the job market in an effort to show them the benefits of joining a contract-management group. I’d like to share a portion of that article with the job seekers here, especially if you happen to be a new physician looking for your first job.

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Schimmel said physician residents are primarily worried about finding ways to align themselves with the changes occurring in the U.S. healthcare system and frequently ask themselves the following three questions:

1. Where should they go?

Should they stay in academics, follow the traditional path and go into private practice, or join a partnership group? Or should they sign with a contract management group or accept employment with a hospital?

“One of the things I spend the most time talking about is just how years ago the only option for physicians was joining a private practice, and they pretty much all wanted to be partners, and that was the only thing to do unless you were going into academics,” she said.

The more residents explore the private-practice option, however, the less it appears to be a viable one, she added, even though many still have the notion that this is where their career trajectory should be leading them.

2. What will happen if they don’t go into private practice?

If they deviate from the traditional path and avoid private practice, Schimmel said many students worry about making enough money.

On the other hand, they’re also concerned about the stability of private practices and worry about being bought out by a larger company before they have had the chance to make partner. And if the practice isn’t bought out, what are their chances of actually being made partner?

“I also talk to them about, ‘What are you a partner of?’” she said. “I think years ago everybody kind of knew what they were going to be a partner of. But you know the playing field has changed a lot, and I think they’re really concerned about that.”

3. Will reimbursement rates for their specialty go down?

One reason why Schimmel freely promotes the contract management model is declining reimbursement rates across several specialties, a factor that compounds the worries of new physicians.

“One of the things that I want them to understand is the whole concept of strength in numbers,” she explained. “We [the contract management group] potentially do have a lot more negotiating power than a group of 10 physicians. And so I think that that’s a lot of what’s happening now.”

She added, “I think that they all know that healthcare might have been one way when they finished up their bachelor’s degree and decided to go into medical school… Nine years later, they’ve realized the reality of that change and now it’s a waiting game to see how it will play out.”

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In an upcoming post, I’ll include what Schimmel told me were the two primary benefits to joining a contract-management group. In the meantime, if you’re a resident who is preparing to transition into the job market, what questions do you have about the future of your career? What don’t you understand about the marketplace?

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