Employed? What your boss wants from you

June 1, 2008

You think you're doing great-but does your boss agree? Here's how to know what the practice leader expects.

For physicians, being in someone else's employ has its advantages-most prominently, the chance to practice medicine without the headaches of partnership. On the downside, you're not your own boss. Someone else is, and to be a standout employee, you need to know how practice leaders define and measure success.

Even in the busiest practices, conscientious leaders take the time to indicate what they're looking for in terms of productivity, call schedules, practice building, creating a referral network, and collegiality. A couple of examples: "In addition to having a good fund of medical knowledge, we want staff doctors to be warm and friendly, realize that they're part of a team, be flexible regarding call coverage and the need to pinch hit for sick colleagues, and maintain good relations with other local physicians," says pediatrician Richard Lander, managing partner of the four-doctor Essex-Morris Pediatric Group in Livingston, NJ.

Houston gastroenterologist Gary Glober, who conducts workshops in communication and leadership skills, puts it succinctly: "Employers are looking for results. They want associate physicians to be efficient, effective, and sensitive, and to get on with it."

Getting it right from the beginning

If you're fortunate, you'll know something going in about how to succeed in your job-either through a clear job description or a statement of performance expectations. During employment interviews with the 90-doctor Colorado Springs Health Partners, for instance, doctors are told what the practice is looking for regarding call coverage, work hours, patient relations, and what it will take in terms of work relative value units or patient visits for them to realize the financial compensation they want, says Jeffrey B. Milburn, CSHP's senior vice president.

When he interviews prospective employees, ophthalmologist Frank J. Weinstock of Canton, OH, looks for buy-in to the practice's philosophy-"high-quality medicine, no unnecessary surgery or procedures, and a desire to enjoy life and the family." From an employer standpoint, Weinstock continues, "honesty and lack of greed are essential. We discuss what we seek in terms of time in the office, production, high-quality patient care, and willingness to handle emergencies."

Once a doctor signs on, succeeding becomes a dual responsibility, according to Martin H. Osinski, president of American Medical Consultants in Miami, a health-care consulting firm specializing in physician recruiting. "Some physicians come out of training and go into practice believing that all they have to do is show up. It doesn't work that way," says Osinski, who's president-elect of the National Association of Physician Recruiters.

"Someone entering a practice has to be willing to reach out to an eclectic group of customers, starting with patients but also including third-party payers, referring physicians, the hospital, the practice's other physicians, and support staff," Osinski adds. "You want to be the person who comes to mind when a nurse's friend asks her to recommend a physician."

At Colorado Springs Health Partners, those points are hammered home during the orientation period. "We tell recruits how they'll be evaluated when we consider them for partnership," says pediatrician Steven Reich, the practice's medical director. That evaluation looks at whether the doctor has adapted to the group's culture and met departmental productivity and financial benchmarks (the latter are based on data from the Medical Group Management Association and the American Medical Group Association). "We also look for evidence of good 'citizenship,'" Reich adds, such as attending interdepartmental meetings and CME programs and participating in committees.