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Practice management pearls: Advice from seasoned doctors for residents looking to start a practice

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

The notion that residency training falls short when it comes to preparing residents and doctors for starting their own practice is a common thread across the board, whether you’re just getting started or have been managing your own practice for years. I did a survey on LinkedIn and over 50 dermatology and plastic surgery colleagues generously provided their own personal insights and words of wisdom to help young doctors avoid common practice management problems.

I could not quote everyone, but here are some of the best tips that I received:

Choose your staff carefully – and invest in the right candidates

One of the biggest pieces of practice management advice that doctors had to offer was to hire the right employees from the beginning, even if that means spending a little more time in the hiring process. This will eliminate headaches and frustration later.

David A. Lickstein, MD, emphasized the importance of investing in your employees, both financially and through education. “Invest in staff, pay them what they truly deserve, and remember that they want to do nothing more than help you and make the office function well. Realize that they didn’t do a residency – if you take the time to teach your staff, they will be grateful and perform even better.”

In his own practice in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Dr. Lickstein has chosen a stable group of staff members who are, “first and foremost, nice, compassionate, and mature,” he said. “They need to be able to relate to cosmetic and medical patients of all ages. My office manager screens them, and then we have potential candidates shadow us for at least a half-day in the office. Afterward, we seek feedback from the current staff. I also try and talk with the candidate for a while, because I’ve found that once you get them to loosen up, you can get an actual sense of how they really are.”

Along the same lines, Cincinnati plastic surgeon Alex Donath, MD, suggests incentivizing employees and giving them an active role in the hiring process. “Give everyone in the office a chance to meet new employee candidates,” he said, “as that will both give the employees a sense of involvement in the process and allow more opportunities to catch glimpses of poor interpersonal skills that could hurt your reputation.”

Many doctors stressed the importance of the interview process, detailed job descriptions, a 60-day trial period, and background checks prior to hiring. This advice goes along with the famous quote “Be slow to hire and quick to fire (in the first 60 days)” that I have seen in many business books.

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