When Should You Start a Private Practice?
It’s not uncommon for many medical professionals to at least consider going into private practice. After all, who doesn’t want to set their own hours and choose their ideal patient? While it may sound like a dream on paper, the truth is that it may not be the best fit for everybody but it’s a rewarding career path for many doctors who want to be in control of their lives. Starting a private practice may feel a lot like other risks you’ve taken in your life--perhaps there’s no such thing as being “ready,” but there are a few key considerations to make sure this is the right path for you. If you’re thinking of starting a private practice, consider the following information as you map out your future.
Not Everybody is Ready for Private Practice
The stark truth is that not everybody is ready for private practice. Perhaps it’s not the best time in your career, or maybe it’ll never be the right fit. Some providers simply do best in a hospital or clinic setting. This isn’t good nor bad, it’s just a fact that people have to define for themselves as to whether or not it is a good fit. However, for those that have the right reasons, private practice could be the answer to your workplace issues.
Sometimes creating a private practice is simply too much stress, and other times it’s just a personal preference. Before going down this road, take a hard look at your goals and who you are as a person. It takes a certain mindset and determination to create a private practice. It requires a bit of an entrepreneurial mind. If that sounds like you, then you need to start by establishing yourself professionally, either through education or experience. If you think you’re ready, create a checklist of the pros and cons to see if private practice is the right fit for you.
Cash on Hand is Necessary
Branching out on your own comes with a certain level of financial risk. It’s important to have a safety net for your practice, especially during those initial formative months. Every level of savings will be different, but you must identify what your practice will need to stay afloat as you gain momentum in your industry. Not only should you have savings, but also clearly define what these savings will be used for. You don’t want to start spending out of this account when it’s not really necessary to do so.
Of course, while savings is the most straightforward approach to funding your dreams, there are other options for new private practices. Consider grants at the federal, state, and local levels to help boost your funds. Depending on the type of practice you’re in, there may be abundant opportunities to build your backing.
Additionally, for practices that still need additional funding, there is the possibility of loans. Talk with a bank or credit union to see your options. Some practices are willing to put up their personal property as collateral on a loan, while other practices want to minimize their personal risk. There are a variety of different funding options, so don’t let that get in the way of your dreams.
If you aren’t an organized person by nature, it’s time to change. Proper organization is critical when starting a private practice. You have to focus on the finer details, such as establishing working hours, rates, and don’t forget to create a good practice management system from the beginning. It’s a lot of tedious work, but building an organized and cohesive foundation now will save considerable time and resources later.
Know Your Ideal Patient/Client
Some medical professionals, especially those early in their careers, make the mistake of assuming that all patients are the right fit or that they can’t turn anybody away. This simply isn’t true. The medical industry is diverse, patients are even more diverse, and some providers don’t have the background or experience to handle every situation.
Your practice will have its strengths and capability, and you have to know what type of patients you work with and those who don’t. You must be willing to refer patients to other providers who are more equipped to handle their specific needs. It may be tempting to take on everybody who enters your practice. While that may get you some initial business, it’s more likely that these patients won’t experience your best service, and you risk getting negative reviews just as you need to establish yourself in the community. Instead, work diligently to understand the types of patients that you want to serve and make sure to get this message out. While you might have fewer initial patients, you’ll be putting your best foot forward.
Slow and Steady Growth
Some providers hit the ground running and have instant growth in their practice. While this may be true for the small minority, focus your efforts to grow at a slow and steady pace. Not only does this give you a chance to work through some of those early growing pains, but it also helps you avoid growing too quickly and delivering subpar services. Not to mention, you don’t want to burn yourself out before you truly begin. Give yourself an opportunity to learn and grow and make necessary changes so you can be even more effective throughout your long career.
Know Your Professional Goals
If you’re thinking of starting a private practice, make sure that you know how that relates to your long-term goals. Consider if private practice is your ultimate goal. For some people, it simply isn’t. It’s not usually the type of process that people start and then shift to working with another clinic. For some people, it makes more sense to gain more experience before creating your own practice. While there’s no right or wrong way to go about it, there are certainly some considerations that may make it easier as you work through the decision and then the implementation of all of the necessary steps.
If you think that maybe this is the route you want to take, make sure that you’ve considered the “why.” Does it align with your values? Is it the challenge you’ve been looking for? Knowing yourself and why this matters to you will ensure that you’re in this for the right reasons. Being honest with yourself from the beginning will make sure that you’re focused on your patients, your career, and your happiness. The most rewarding private practices ensure that their work aligns all three of these aspects.
Take the First Steps
If you’ve considered everything and you know that private practice is where you want to be, then it’s time to put action into your plan. Take control of your future and begin establishing the strategies and processes that will make your practice a success. You’ll be responsible for creating the business plan, establishing a billing process, hiring staff, creating a marketing plan, and connecting to your patients. The groundwork is everything. If you put in the work now, then you’ll be well on your way to operating a successful practice that will serve your patients, community, and yourself for years to come.