What Do Employed Physicians Have to Do to Get Ahead?

Leigh Page


November 18, 2015

In This Article

Doctors Surprised That They Enjoyed Administration

Some current physician-leaders actually had no plans to get involved in administrative functions in their careers. Timothy Jahn, MD, chief clinical officer at Baptist Health in Kentucky, did not intend to go into administration when he stopped serving as an emergency physician in the Navy and joined a large emergency medicine group practice in Wisconsin. But as a newcomer to the group, his shifts in the emergency department (ED) kept changing. "It was wreaking havoc on my sleep patterns," he recalls.

For some respite, Dr Jahn turned to the administrative side of the practice, and he found he liked the work. He served as treasurer of the board and founded its audit committee. He also chaired a committee dealing with the group's retirement plan, which had assets worth more than $100 million.

Dr Jahn then moved on to work at a healthcare system, where he oversaw ED operations at one of its hospitals. "I realized I could make a difference for a few patients as an emergency physician, but as an administrator, I could have an impact on 300,000 ED patients a year."

In contrast, other employed physicians set their sights on the administrative track from the get-go. "I see myself in a physician-leader role within a medical group or as the chief medical officer," says 36-year-old Michael Hanak, MD, an employed family physician at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who is just starting his career.

"It helps if you can define your goals early," he says. "That allows you more time to focus your energies on the skills and experiences that will help you pursue them." His interests include clinical informatics, quality improvement, and population health.

Dr Hanak has moved ahead rather quickly. Like many young physicians, he joined a key committee: the medical center's quality committee. The committee chair moved on a year and a half later, and Dr Hanak was named interim chair and then full chair. "It was a matter of timing," he said. "It doesn't usually work out that way."

Working on Committees

Dr Hanak says newcomers serving on a committee or council need to be patient and hard-working. "When you're starting out, it's hard for people to take your opinions as fact. It's important to act as a sponge—to do as much learning as possible," he says.

The next step is taking on a project, such as finding ways to reduce hypertension rates. "This will earn you more attention," Dr Hanak says. "Small successes lead to bigger roles. They get you the opportunity to be heard."

Employed physicians working on committees are often allowed to work fewer clinical hours. They may be allowed to see fewer patients or log fewer relative value units, Dr Buckley says. "That's an advantage employed physicians have over self-employed physicians on staff," she says. "They have to give up time from their practice to join a committee."

Dr Hanak adds that if you are assigned a project, you might also get extra compensation for meeting specific measurable goals, such as a reduction in hypertension rates. He says the promise of extra payment might involve signing a written agreement.

Dr Angood recommends initially serving on a committee to see whether the work appeals to you. "If you decide you don't like it, you can go back to full-time clinical work," he says. For many doctors, he says, committee work is as far as they want to go outside of their clinical duties, but they may be comfortable doing it for years.


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