What Comes After Residency: Tips to Start Your Healthcare Career

IN A NUTSHELL:

  • Decisions made after residency can greatly impact your career
  • Important to not jump at the first opportunity that arises
  • Start your job search early

Completion of residency is a major turning point for a new physician, as the next decisions you make could have a lasting impact on your career in health care.

After years of hard work to get through medical school and the dedication that continued on through residency, it is important to avoid post-residency mistakes and prosper in a career that you have clearly dreamt of doing for quite some time.

Here are a few pieces of advice which health care career experts say could make all of the difference between a satisfying career and potentially burning out quick:

Update Your Curriculum Vitae
First things first, a step that is small and extremely consequential at the same time: update your CV! Now that you completed your education and training, you possess the skills and credentials that are highly sought. It is vital that your CV accurately and professionally presents these qualifications.

Get Ahead of The Game
Start your job search early! No one wants to be stuck in a desperate job search, facing a high amount of debt from student loans, immediately after their graduation ceremony. Try to start browsing around for various options toward the end of your training. It is also important, while in residency, to know your resident persona and how it could shape your career. Being aware of your professional strengths and weaknesses can have a solid impact on paving the most fitting career path in health care.

Contact Recruiters
Recruiters are a valuable resource. They connect you with a variety of potential employers. Good recruiters will work with you to learn as much as possible about your skill set, career preferences, and ultimate career goals.

Take it slow and explore various positions
Many physicians who are well into satisfying careers stress the importance of post-residency life and the opportunity to find your proper fit. Experts say this can easily be done with locum tenens positions. Locum tenens provides new physicians with the freedom to try out various practice sizes, urban and rural environments, various work schedules, and inpatient or outpatient settings. This flexibility allows you to fully understand what works best for you before jumping into a long-term commitment that could quickly lead to physician burnout.

Know where you want to go
The practice of medicine can be both rewarding and lucrative, but some places are better than others. After investing so much time, money, and energy into the start of your career, you should do everything you can to get the most out of it. Similar to how patients want the best care possible and will make the effort to travel to areas that are the most promising with respect to the care they need, physicians must do the same. Seek out geographic areas that are known for your particular scope of practice while considering external factors such as cost of living and of course the salary you desire.

Don’t settle for the first opportunity that arises
It is crucial to not get overly excited about the first solid job offer post-residency. You must fully evaluate every opportunity before making a decision. This is another reason why locums tenens work is important to consider. It allows you to not jump into a long-term position that does not fully meet your expectations. Consequently, that temporary assignment could turn out to be the perfect match.

Don’t hesitate to negotiate
No matter what your career is, being in the position of asking for more money can be uncomfortable. However, putting yourself out of your comfort zone can pay off quite well in the long run. In fact, most employers will expect you to negotiate. Bear in mind this request doesn’t have to only focus on your salary. Perhaps you’re moving across the country for the new job; if your new employer did not offer to cover moving expenses ask for a relocation allowance. If the employer doesn’t offer relocation allowances in a contract, you could also receive it by asking for a sign-on bonus.<

Don’t sign the contract as it stands
With respect to contracts, there are a couple important points to consider. To begin with, it should never be immediately signed as it is—in most cases. Many physicians who are at the start of their career believe that the employment contract is merely red tape that is part of the process. However, it often contains important provisions, such as post-employment restrictions or possible non-compete clauses. It may be worthwhile to pay an attorney to review the contract first. No one likes unexpected expenses off of the bat, especially when it isn’t required, yet it will pay off in the long run.

Don’t change your financial lifestyle too quickly
After so many years of living a student lifestyle with minimal expenses, once the paychecks start appearing in your bank account the temptation to overspend is real. Experts say new physicians should continue to live a lifestyle like they are still in residency to pay off student loan debt faster, make larger 401K contributions, and begin looking toward larger investments, such as a home. You may also want to consider a term life insurance policy geared toward health care providers. This is due to the high amount of debt graduates of medical school carry with them, typically for the first 10 years of their career, if not longer. The median medical school debt, not including loans from premedical education, was also $200,000 in 2019. One study found this figure to be closer to $300,000 to include all education prior to medical school. If anything were to happen to a health care provider before all of this debt is paid off, others must carry the burden. Debts typically become the responsibility of your estate after you die. Your estate is everything you own at the time of your death—which includes a term life insurance policy.

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