Employed or Self-employed: Did You Make the Right Choice?

Leigh Page


October 12, 2016

In This Article

What Kind of Practice Do You Want?

Each person's dreams for their career differ, because of their own personality, the role models they've become used to, and the tradeoffs that are important to them.

Nowhere is this dichotomy more obvious than choosing employment or self-employment in physician careers. Being an employed physician is the trend, and yet it's not for everybody. About one quarter of physicians are self-employed, and even among medical residents, 22% say they are considering being a partner or self-employed someday.

Did you make the right choice in the way you chose to practice? Here you'll find some of the pros and cons, a comparison with self-employed physicians, and an examination of how key concerns might be resolved.

What's Your Paradigm: Marcus Welby or Grey's Anatomy?

For young physicians, working as an employee in a large organization was what they always wanted, says Cody Futch, regional vice president of recruiting at Merritt Hawkins, the physician recruitment firm.

"Employment was always their conception of what physicians do," he says.

Older physicians, he says, grew up watching Marcus Welby, M.D., a 1970s TV show that celebrated private practice. In contrast, younger physicians grew up on Grey's Anatomy, a series that premiered in 2005 and portrays work in an academic medical center.

In the opinion of many younger doctors, running a practice seems like a needless diversion from the real work of taking care of patients, Futch says.

When Mark Ramirez, MD, a dermatologist in San Angelo, Texas, graduated from his residency program in 2008, he signed an employment contract with the largest health system in the area (which he prefers not to identify).

Even though he has since moved on to private practice, he still thinks starting with an employment was the right decision.

"Opening a practice would have been an extraordinary challenge at that point," he says. In a private practice, "I'd not only practicing on my own for the first time, but I'd also have had the challenges of running a business."


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