What is the scariest part of starting a new job? That’s easy. The scariest part is the sheer uncertainty. Being in a new environment, working with a new team, having a different set of expectations to meet—adapting to all these variables can be daunting.
During the interview process, many job seekers refrain from asking a lot of questions that would address these potential challenges because they’re afraid of coming off as needy or insecure.
For physicians, it’s especially important to not let these fears hinder them from getting the information they need before starting a new job. Otherwise, they could end up in an environment that isn’t conducive to their success, which could be detrimental for both them and their patients.
Asking the right questions is the best way to prevent that from happening. For those who struggle with knowing what to ask, here are the five most crucial pieces of information physicians need to know before starting a new job.
1. How long does credentialing take? Let’s start with an obvious one first. Credentialing is a grueling process that can make or break a job opportunity.
It can take anywhere from 4 months to less than a week with emergency privileges, depending on the facility and whether the physician is working with an agency who will take care of the paperwork for them.
Setting expectations for the credentialing process allows physicians to plan their lives accordingly. This information is imperative for those who have to move their families for a new job.
To make the process go as smoothly and quickly as possible, physicians not using a staffing agency should prepare themselves by getting all the necessary paperwork in order before they apply.
2. How high is the census? Nothing sets a physician up for failure like an unreasonably high patient census. What constitutes as unreasonable, however, depends on a number of variables: the physician’s specialty, the practice setting, the percentage of time they must devote to clerical work or whether they have sub-specialty support.
Those are just a few factors to consider. As far as a set standard goes, an ideal patient census might be around 15 to 20 patients per day or shift.
But many physicians are forced to exceed that number. In one study, 40% of physicians reported that their average inpatient census climbed beyond safe levels at least once a month. This phenomenon is not only a recipe for burnout but also a huge risk for providers and patients alike.
3. What is the team structure? Just as a physician needs a clear understanding of what a facility expects of them, they also need to know what they can expect of their team. Having APP or sub-specialty support can make all the difference in how a physician is able to perform.
The team dynamic can alleviate some of the worst aspects of the job—like enduring the stress of a staggering patient census or chipping away at tedious data entries— which can make all the difference in a physician’s workplace satisfaction.
4. What EHR system does the facility use? Speaking of tedious data entries, let’s talk about electronic health records (EHRs). These systems are the bane of many physicians’ work days, forcing them to spend more time on patient records than on the patients themselves.
EHRs have a long way to go, but some systems are far better than others. When applying for a new job, physicians need to make sure that the facility either uses a system they are familiar with or one that’s more prevalent like Epic or Allscripts.
5. How is the schedule managed? Block scheduling, days or nights, 10 or 12 hours—with so many ways to allocate shifts, it’s important for physicians to know who manages the schedule and how they do it.
Scheduling can easily get convoluted and chaotic, especially in multi-specialty and high-census facilities. Many facilities also require the doctor to be on call several shifts a month, which can determine whether or not a physician will take a job.
This information is crucial in helping physicians manage their work-life balance, so they can save themselves from burnout and serve their patients to the best of their ability.
Nobody becomes a physician because it’s easy. Challenges arise every day on the job, no matter where you work. But the better prepared a physician is in a new role, the more likely they will be successful.
Asking these five questions could mean the difference between your dream job and your worst nightmare. With the astounding rates of physician burnout, you can’t be too careful.
For any physicians apprehensive about their next step, just know that we’re always happy to help! Our mission is to give you all the opportunities and resources you need to pursue success and happiness like never before.