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Published 4/1/2014
Jackie Ryan

Transitioning Out of Residency

Congratulations. You are a final-year orthopaedic resident and only a short time away from completing your residency and making “real money.” Not so fast, the real work is about to begin. Your job search is a job in and of itself. Are you prepared?

According to Ryan Dopirak, MD, residents should ask potential employers lots of questions so they can critically evaluate orthopaedic practice opportunities.

Perception versus reality
It is estimated that the average orthopaedic surgeon will make at least two to three career changes over the course of his or her career. Approximately half will make a career change within the first 2 years of practice. Yet the majority of residents, upon taking their first position, believe they will stay with the practice for many years. Although residents are well prepared to practice medicine, they are often underprepared to make the transition out of residency.

“Numerous factors must be considered when evaluating orthopaedic employment opportunities, and there is no such thing as a ‘perfect job,’” said Dr. Dopirak.

The key to making wise practice decisions is knowing what you are getting yourself into before you see your first patient, he advised. Do your research. Actively search; do not wait to see what falls into your lap. Learn to identify the qualities you are looking for in a practice, as well as those that are deal breakers. Keep your eyes wide open throughout the entire interview process. Investigate practice opportunities with the same tenacity with which you study for the Boards. Learn from the mistakes of others and remember nobody cares about your well-being or your contract more than you do.

Five points for successful negotiations
In closing, Dr. Dopirak offered the following five points for being a successful negotiator:

  1. Understand supply and demand in the market you are considering. Take into account surgeon density, saturation in your subspecialty, and primary and secondary service areas.
  2. Know your strengths, especially as they pertain to the market you are considering. What do you bring to the group that is different or better than other candidates? How can you enhance the group?
  3. Know your market value. Know what is a fair compensation package for your subspecialty by familiarizing yourself with income surveys from groups such as the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) or the AAOS.
  4. The best negotiators are always willing to walk away from the table. Before you enter negotiations, decide what you are willing to accept and what is a deal breaker. It is a buyer’s market, so do not settle and don’t call them back for at least 2 days.
  5. Don’t be a “bull in a china shop.” The first goal is to sell yourself to the employer. Don’t talk numbers during the first interview, and don’t start making demands or negotiating until you sense the group is “sold” on you.

Jackie Ryan is the manager, practice management affairs. She can be reached at ryan@aaos.org