7 things to look for in a new position


Watch for these warning signs and welcome sights to be sure your new practice is a keeper that'll keep you happy.

Watch for these warning signs and welcome sights to be sure your new practice is a keeper that'll keep you happy.

Here you are, looking for your third position in three years. The last two didn't work out so well. You got that message loud and clear when you found a scalpel in your office mailbox with your name on it—engraved by the clinic's dental scaler.

Craig Woloshyn, DVM

But don't worry: There are lots of jobs out there. In fact, you've probably already received calls from other practices asking if you're ready for a change. Well, now you are. But let's make sure this next job sticks. Here are seven things to look for before you accept your next gig.

1 Time management

The new generation of doctors has shown us all that our professional and personal lives can coexist in peace. But for that to happen, you'll need time to devote to both parts. So check out your potential boss's time management skills.

Does she barely have time to take your phone calls? Does the clinic turn away clients because it's too busy? If you visit at lunchtime, is everyone at lunch or are they still finishing the morning chores? Drive by the clinic after closing time—is the parking lot full?

Without good time management at the practice, appointments will back up, surgery patients will go home sleepy, lab work will be late, and on and on. Remember, there's a difference between "When does the clinic close?" and "When do I go home?"

2 The team

Does the clinic employ enough team members—at least three or four per doc? Do certified technicians supervise the back office and manage the rest of the team? Do you feel a sense of camaraderie, or can you cut the tension with a knife?

What about continuing education? Are the clinic's less-experienced team members encouraged to grow and learn? A clinic that offers its assistants online training so that they can become certified is way ahead of the game and deserves a gold star on your checklist.

A working interview at the clinic will give you a feel for whether staff members are happy, competent, and pleased to show off their work. Look for a sense of independence combined with teamwork.

Last but not least, if this is your first or second job and you've been out of school less than two years, you'll need a certified technician with you every day. I think it's vital to your early training and integration into the profession.

3 Equipment

You've probably already rejected several practices because they didn't have a color Doppler ultrasound machine that offers integrated laser, digital radiography, and cappuccino delivery capabilities. But you really need to put technology in perspective. Ask yourself this two-pronged question: Does the clinic have enough equipment to allow you to treat 90 percent of the cases you see each week, and does it have a mechanism for referring the rest to specialists or bigger facilities? A good otoscope is more important to you than a laser. You don't need an ultrasound machine, as you don't have ACVIM after your name, and they're the only folks who should touch the things. (OK, radiologists, too, but then they'd have to touch a patient—ick!)

Some in-house lab equipment is good, but it must mesh with the way you practice. What do you need stat? What can wait and be sent out? A radiography machine is a necessity, but digital radiography isn't.

The problem with some equipment is that it costs more money than it can bring in. As an associate, you may not think you care, but it's a sign of poor management if the owner's making large investments in technology for the clinic that don't pay themselves off. Your salary and quality of work life depend on income, so think again about whether the high-end equipment is working for the clinic or against it. E

4 Mentoring

The less experienced you are, the more you need a mentor. If there are already associates at the practice, ask them if the boss is a good mentor. Also talk to the boss and be frank about your need. Practice is a clinical residency for practitioners with fewer than three years under their belts. And mentoring should continue for years after that, too.

Your potential boss should show you a few things that indicate she practices mentoring. For example, multiple doctors should review radiographs and abnormal lab work. Doctors should meet weekly (think lunch) to discuss problems they don't have time for during the press of the day.

If you're relatively inexperienced, you'll need more time for appointments and more help from the staff. You'll need the opportunity to perform surgeries, or you'll lose your skill.

And make sure those surgeries aren't all simple ones. If you face a difficult surgery, you need a senior doctor there to answer your questions—not to take over when the going gets rough.

5 Commitment

Will your name go on the door and business cards? Will the team call you "doctor"? Are you expected to perform nondoctor jobs, or are you free to be a physician? Will you get your fair share of appointments—again, not just the easy ones? Will the boss have the confidence to tell his favorite clients, "This is Dr. Newbie, and she'll take great care of you, too"?

Your new practice should treat you like a professional from the start. Worry a little if the receptionist calls you by your first name after one call.

6 Fees and finances

Take the time to ask about the clinic's rates and how charges are handled. Your new practice should charge enough for services. Fees predict the type of medicine that's practiced. Low cost means less medicine—it's that simple. A healthy practice has demanding clients who expect great care and will gladly pay for it.

Ideally, once you're in, you should be shown how the money flows in the practice. You should have access to the practice's books and an explanation of what goes on there.

I think it's essential that you understand your professional finances. You need to know how much income you generate and how that compares to other docs in and out of the practice. If you're on production pay (and you should be from day one), you need to know how to check your numbers without asking the bookkeeper.

7 Laughter

Does the clinic seem like a happy place where you'd like to spend the majority of your waking hours? Do clients seem pleased to be there? Do team members enjoy their work? There are many stressors we can't avoid, but we can handle them with good humor.

The physical and emotional benefits of laughter are well known, and you'd better hear some laughs while you're there for your interview. If not—well, you may want to check back on the clinic that didn't have the color Doppler ultrasound cappuccino machine

Dr. Craig Woloshyn, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member, doesn't have a color Doppler ultrasound cappuccino machine at Animal Medical Clinic in Spring Hill, Fla. But he does share advice through Sun Dog Veterinary Consulting. Please send questions or comments to ve@advanstar.com

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