What I Learned In My First Year of Being an Associate Doctor

After the completion of residency, we have a couple options: Practice ownership or associateship. I am one of those that chose the latter. My goal was to gain a few years of experience before taking the plunge into being "the boss" and just like with anything else I learned some valuable lessons along the way. Here are a few:

1. Fully understand your contractual obligations before signing

This is one of the most important parts of starting your new associateship. It sets the tone for the next year+ of your professional life. The contract is a legally binding agreement so do your due diligence and ensure the terms are mutually beneficial.  Have an attorney read through it before signing. This is very important! If there's something that you do not agree with, do not sign. (More on contracts in a subsequent post). 

2. Patient first! Despite any circumstance

 You are the doctor and your duty is to your patients! If anything disrupts patient care, it should be discussed with your employer.  Employers hire associates for various reasons. Those reasons could range from the employer slowing down/phasing out or simply to grow the practice. In situations of growing the practice, make sure there is a healthy balance between increased patient load and quality of care. If you feel the volume of patients is preventing you from offering the best quality of care to your patients don't be afraid to discuss it with your employer. Ultimately your license is at stake. Patients first.

3. Have and keep a good rapport with the staff and other doctor(s), but do not fraternize.

Remain professional. You are in a professional environment and should act accordingly at all times. Be courteous and friendly but not too friendly. There is a level of respect that you first will have to earn and then maintain. Being too friendly and/or fraternizing can send the wrong message and opens the floor up for disrespect. Do not allow it. Conversely, you may not always like everyone, but you certainly should make an effort to "get along" with everyone. Trust me, it makes life less stressful and the days go by faster.  Your staff can be your biggest asset when they are fully invested in the practice. They are human beings with lives outside of the office too. Some things that really go a long way are remembering birthdays and  anniversaries, treating the staff to breakfast or lunch on occasion, giving gifts at christmas, etc. Those little things can go a long way toward a healthy work environment. Keep it light, keep it fun but keep it professional.

4. Be nice, but be firm.

Be respectful, kind and courteous but also maintain boundaries. Keep in mind that you are not the boss, you are an associate and some staff members will try to push their limit, do not allow this. On the contrary being mean can destroy your relationships with staff and sometimes the patients. You have your reputation to uphold so protect it!!

5. Learn to say NO.

Those words should be utilized in life and in the workplace.  If you are uncomfortable with something it is your duty as a practitioner to speak up.  There is a tendency for some employers to push to see how much they can get out of you. As young professionals we want to look good to our employers but know your limits and exercise them. The lesson to be learned here is Your license is at stake.