Physicians who want to work independently may choose to have a solo practice. The autonomy and flexibility afforded by a solo practice are balanced by the high level of responsibility and financial risk. In this type of practice, a physician manages the medical care of patients, a small staff, and all business operations. Physicians who enjoy working independently and are business savvy may thrive in a solo practice.
Group practices are composed of two or more physicians in the same specialty or multiple specialties. Group practices offer greater financial stability, fewer nights on call, and more flexibility in scheduling. The financial risk is spread among the group members, and groups can usually afford to pay for administrators. However, group practices offer less autonomy and independence than do solo practices.
Some physicians work directly for hospitals, or their practice is owned by a hospital. Others work for clinics that are employed by healthcare corporations. The advantages of being employed are that compensation is guaranteed, there is a larger staff to handle administrative responsibilities, and increased work-life balance. The downside is that productivity demands may be steep, there may be less clinical flexibility (such as narrow drug formularies), and autonomy is decreased.
Some physicians work as independent contractors, while others choose temporary employment. Independent contractors work for themselves but share facilities and clinical responsibilities with other physicians. Healthcare organizations or clinics hire temporary physicians to fill in during employee absence or in times of greater patient demand. Both types of employment offer flexibility but less opportunity for decision-making within the practice.
- Clinical skills: Physicians must have the clinical skills necessary to diagnose and treat patients within their specialty.
- Communication skills: Physicians communicate extensively with patients, nurses, administrative staff, colleagues, pharmacists, and many others. Clear, calm communication is necessary for clinical practice.
- Business skills: Physicians in solo practices and group practices must understand all aspects of running a practice and managing a business. This may especially include: personnel hiring practices, budget management, marketing, and strategic planning.
- Content knowledge: Physicians must continually read and stay abreast of relevant medical literature and research.