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This post comes to us from our Minnesota member, the National Rural Health Resource Center.

When should I start my job search? This may be the question I am most asked from physician residents and advanced practice provider students. The answer is…right now! Although you may not want to begin site visits until closer to the end of your training, it’s never too early to begin thinking about what type of practice you want to have, as well as the community in which you want to live. By starting your job search early, and knowing what to pay attention to during your residency internships and student rotations, you will be better equipped to begin your practice search.

A really great way to begin determining your preferences is to create a list of “Must Haves”. These are details about both a practice and a community that you feel strongly about and will help frame your job search.

Practice Setting
Determine what type of practice setting that interests you; private or group practice, single specialty or multispecialty group. Maybe a hospital or an academic setting is more appealing to you.  Keep in mind each of these practice settings will offer a different type of work experience.

Workplace Culture
Do you have any religious or ethical considerations? Do you want to work with a particular patient mix, how busy do you want to be and is the practice compatible with your family situation? Perhaps you’re interested in finding a group of older, more experienced physicians who can be a mentor or would you prefer a younger physician group who may share similar interests and values? Also, be sure to ask about provider satisfaction within the practice.

Geographic Location
Define what you want and need in a community with regard to housing, schools, shopping, entertainment and recreational activities. When it comes to your location preference, it’s imperative to have a clear understanding of what you like to do and where you want to live.

Understand how technology is transforming health care. Recognize the various types of technology that you anticipate needing.

With the amount of educational debt that new providers have, this may seem like it should be the most significant item on your list. And while I agree that this area is important, I want to stress that it shouldn’t be the most influential. Never pre-select practice sites on compensation alone, as money shouldn’t be a factor until you’ve completed your site visits and are offered a job. It’s also important to consider the entire compensation package. This includes salary, incentives, benefits and signing bonus, etc. 

Now that you’ve determined your list of “Must Haves”, you are ready to begin your practice search and site visits. Once you’ve narrowed your search to a handful of communities/facilities that you’d like to visit, there is much to consider to effectively evaluate each opportunity. Here is a list of areas to explore and assess:

Will you have access to services such as x-ray, lab, home health, hospice, physical therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic, speech therapy, etc.?

Patient Volume
How busy is the practice? Can you see patients at your own pace or will you be expected to see a certain number of patients per day?

Formal Relationships
Are there any agreements in place in regard to specialist referrals? Is there a particular hospital that you must admit to?

Are there specialists employed by the facility or are their visiting specialists? Does the facility utilize tele-medicine for any of their specialty care?

Care Coordination
Is the clinic a certified health care home? What is the clinic’s team approach to care coordination within the community? Learn how their focus on patient centered care across the continuum of health care has supported their patient’s quality of care.

Technology / Electronic Health Record (EHR)
Where is the practice at in implementing their electronic health record and are they meeting the Meaningful Use criteria? Do they have a health information technology team and/or any physician champions? What are they doing to increase patient engagement? Are they utilizing data from the EHR for quality or process improvement activities? Does the facility utilize any telemedicine services? How about the use of mobile devices?  Mobile devices have transformed many aspects of clinical practice and have become the commonplace in many health care settings.

Is the clinic affiliated with a health system or part of a network? These types of relationships can provide additional resources, education, experts, equipment and financing.

What is the condition of the facility? Are there any recent or pending renovations in progress? Is there adequate space, equipment and staff?

Performance Expectations
What is the scope of practice required? What is the call schedule and is it equitable among all providers? Are the any supervisory or administrative duties required of you? Is the facility a preceptor site?

Organizational Structure
Is the practice physician-owned or health system? Who manages clinic operations and how is the organization governed?  Is there a medical director and/or a board of directors? Who will do your performance reviews and approve your time off?

As you consider everything involved in finding the right practice opportunity, the key is to start early.  The process is relatively time consuming so take the time necessary to create your vision of “must haves” and then ensure that it corresponds with reality.  And remember…interviewing is an ideal opportunity for you to learn about new employment opportunities, visit new geographic areas and meet new people. Use these visits as your compass in selecting the perfect practice. 

For more information on beginning your practice search contact Angie LaFlamme at 218-727-9390, ext. 222. You can also visit Minnesota's 3RNet page or visit the National Rural Health Resource Center website.

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