By Ann M. Renucci, MD
Young Ophthalmologist Committee
The first year of practice can be an overwhelming experience for even the most well adjusted physician. It can often mean moving to a new community, operating in a new O.R., working with new staff in a setting remarkably different than the typical university training program and making independent clinical judgments alone, perhaps for the first time. All these new experiences can make for a stressful year. However, a logical approach to entering practice may make the experience more pleasant. Here are some ways to help soften the fall.
First of all, get your state medical license well in advance. Some states require exhausting applications and lengthy waiting periods, so get a head start and expect delays. Also, apply early to insurance companies in your area to be a participating provider. This process can take a long time and may limit the patients you can see until you are a recognized provider.
Before you start work on your first day, consider going into the office to introduce yourself and familiarize yourself with patient flow and equipment. Also, review the paperwork you will need to use so it is not foreign to you on your first day. These steps can help make your first day less overwhelming.
Whether you are starting your own practice or joining a practice, it is important to send out an announcement to local physicians that you are now in town. Do not forget to include area optometrists. However, this is just the first step. You need to make yourself known. Consider personally visiting doctors offices, including fellow ophthalmologists, general medical doctors and optometrists. It is helpful for both you and your new colleagues if you can connect a face with a name.
You may also network by offering to lecture to local medical doctors or ophthalmologic and optometric societies. Get involved with resident education if available. This can be a great way to stay connected to the training process and provide for good relationships with fellow colleagues in the future.
As you start your practice remember to communicate with referring doctors. Dictate detailed letters promptly to keep your colleagues informed. Do not be afraid to pick up the phone and call a colleague to let them know how a patient is doing. Your colleagues will appreciate the extra time you spent to discuss patient management. If colleagues call the office with questions or information about patients, be available to talk with them. They will appreciate your availability and may consider this when making future referrals.
Finally, be kind to your staff, other doctors and patients. Remember, taking care of patients is a team effort, so treat others with respect. Staff can make life significantly easier if they are on your side. Likewise, other doctors may be more inclined to work with you if you are approachable. Finally, the best referral is from a happy patient. A good medical result is only half the experience for the patient.