Protecting your financial future from other physicians

Unfortunately, hospitals and healthcare systems are not the only ones that take advantage of doctors.  Physicians in private practices are just as likely to take advantage of their colleagues, and sometimes the severity may be much greater than what you’d see in the hospital setting.

Those of you younger doctors in outpatient specialties, take note.  This list includes gastroenterologists, ophthalmologists, vascular surgeons, oncologists, internists, or anyone who would join a medical practice with another doctor.  Anytime there is a younger physician joining a practice run by senior physicians, there will always be potential for inequity.  Why do these problems arise?

Greed. 

Greed of money, and greed of exploiting someone else. It just happens.  Perhaps the senior doctor thinks that she put in blood and sweat into a practice that a junior associate is simply getting in for free.  Blood must be drawn in order for a new doctor to be accepted. 

How you can get taken advantage of as a junior doctor
Most of us learn from getting burned ourselves.  These situations can occur in any of the common three ways:

  1. Reneging on a prior promise — This is typically the most obvious scenario that younger doctors encounter.  A new doctor joins a practice with the promise of partnership after a certain period of time.  When that time is reached, the owner-physician declines the partnership offer for some infraction.  The junior doctor is then stuck remaining as an employee indefinitely or move elsewhere.  Sometimes this cycle repeats with a new hire.
  2. Withholding critical financial information — Sometimes a partnership isn’t really a partnership.  Or maybe not all partners are created equal.  The problem with healthcare is that there are business nuances that you will only learn with experience in your profession.  This is where a less experienced physician can get taken advantage of during a partnership agreement.  
  3. Exploiting mentorship role for financial gain — Greed.  It never makes sense to me that a physician who has had an entire career of earnings would feel the need to maximize financial gain of a younger physician.    Typically the amount of financial gain is quite negligible for the senior doctor’s retirement plan.  I’ve seen instances where the senior doctor owns the building in which the practice rents from, and the lease arrangements benefit the landlord significantly.  I’ve seen instances where the junior doctor is heavily dependent upon the senior doctor’s goodwill to refer patients over, but the senior doctor does nothing to help the cause.

Justification of greed
Why do we even see doctors getting exploited by others in their profession? The answer likely lies in the competitive nature of those who enter the profession.  Look back to medical school—we all have been witnesses (or instigators) to cutthroat behavior in medical school.  There is a desire to get ahead.  These behaviors carry over onto everything we do. 
Those of you just starting your careers will need to be aware that malfeasance can happen anywhere and anytime.  Even if you ask the right questions and do all of the right things, you can still get swindled financially by a fellow physician.  
Those of you who are senior physicians bringing on junior physicians, be mindful of what you went through and try to mentor your younger colleagues properly and fairly.  Do the right thing. Our profession needs to stick together to fight the good fight. 

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