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Career brand management discussions typically are centered on executives, creative types like artists, designers, and musicians, lawyers, and, of course, entertainers, especially the up and comers of that world.  Doctors have been largely left out of the conversation.  Historically, the majority of physicians selected a site where they wanted to practice and most remained there for their entire career.

doctor career brand managementThat is changing.  The next generation of physicians will be compelled to join their brethren in the consumer-oriented subspecialties such as plastic surgery and bariatric medicine, who are increasingly brand (volume) conscious.

What is driving this change that will attract more and more physicians to the brand management discussion?  I will give you three guesses but the first two don’t count.

Healthcare reform.  As the delivery process — yes, process (we are a long way from having anything remotely resembling a system) — evolves, as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) initiatives reshape physician – hospital relationships,  as the reimbursement system shifts from volume to value, and as the anticipated shortage of doctors comes into play as more and more Baby Boomer physicians retire, doctors will be at the nexus of much change.  They will be employed, their performance in terms of quality, productivity and satisfaction will be measured, and aggressive physician headhunters will tempt them with better deals across town or across the country.

Most physicians leave medical school with barely enough business savvy to run a practice much less manage their career brands.  That is just one of several essential real-world practice of medicine skills that medical schools do not teach, but brand management will become an increasingly critical skill for a successful and rewarding practice/career.

Experienced brand managers say that discipline is one key to success.  Discipline in the context of selecting a practice, or making the decision to move on to greener pastures, means having the focus to make smart market choices — to do the homework, ask the hard questions, and avoid, as much as possible, fast-talking used-car sales types masquerading as physician recruiters, who promise you the earth, telling you everything you want to know and hear.  Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, as my grandmother used to say, it probably is.  Physicians should examine the fate of executives who made one too many bad moves.   They were either forced into early “retirement” or they are working in an “under employed” situation.

We are seeing more and more physicians who have bounced — moving on to a new deal after a relatively short tenure.  Hospitals, clinics and others who engage physicians, do not like that type of employment record any more than they like job hopper executives.

Physicians, particularly those from undistinguished foreign medical schools with so-so residencies in the US, must be especially diligent with their brand management because there is a double standard that is applied when evaluating a career.  They may be good doctors, but being a foreign medical graduate and making several career moves, will taint their brand.  At the same time, American born and trained physicians, must also be careful about their career moves lest they find themselves in a job out of necessity, not choice.

The biggest risk for physicians is not having job because there will always be someone, somewhere who will engage a doctor unless their malpractice record is so bad that liability insurance coverage is not possible.  Those cases are rare.  No, the biggest risk is working in an undesirable community or for an ethically challenged company that will push the physician to do things they would not ordinarily consider — clinically or financially.

If you have questions on career brand management issues, email Ask the Recruiter.  Moreover, if you are physician who is being laid off — something that will occur with more regularity as hospitals adjust their workforce — be sure to  request outplacement/transition coaching support.  You will no doubt get pushback because this is not a benefit hospitals normally provide to doctors.  But in this brave new world of changing roles, doctors need the same kind of severance that most executives receive.

Editor’s Note:     There will be no blog post on Friday.  John is taking the day off to celebrate the arrival of 2016.  John and the four-member Self Perspective blog team wish each of you a safe New Year’s Eve and a prosperous and happy 2016!