Doctor's Guide to Choosing the Best Hospital
When choosing where you want to work as a doctor, there’s a number of different medical facility options to consider. From larger multi-state hospital systems, to private practices, to neighborhood clinics, each option has its advantages and disadvantages. When it comes down to it, it depends on your professional goals as a doctor to help you decide which option to go with.
One of the most popular options for doctors is to work at a hospital; according to the Medical Group Management Association, over 50% of U.S. doctors are employed by a hospital or health system. Whether you’re looking for your first, or your hundredth hospital job, there's always a multitude of factors consider for each opportunity that comes your way - some of which can be hard to navigate.
To help you evaluate your next hospital job, we’ve put together a guide to choosing the best hospital for you.
First key question to address:
Why Would You Choose a Hospital?
Before we dive into choosing the best hospital for you, we should first talk about why you would choose a hospital over a private practice, clinic, or another environment.
One of the major benefits of hospitals is that they offer a more structured workspace and more evident job security. This includes:
- Set salary every month
- Fixed rota
- Professional development courses
- Professional insurance cover
- Pension plans
Though there are also the potential disadvantages of being more limited in the patients you want to see, or having additional administrative burdens unique to hospitals, they still remain one of the most common workplaces and employers for doctors.
What Are the Types of Hospitals?
There are 5,534 registered hospitals in the US, which are divided into multiple categories. Consider which of these categories appeal to you as you’re searching for what type of hospital you’d like to work in.
- Acute vs Long-Term: This will determine the type of patients you tend to see.
- For-Profit vs Not-for-Profit: Often the focus on hospitals will be determined by who is in charge.
- Community vs Non-Community: Community hospitals tend to serve a smaller community, rather than being on a federal scale.
- Urban vs Rural: Geographic location impacts things like size, services and demographics.
- Independent, System and/or Network: Mostly important in terms of how administration works.
- Teaching vs Non-Teaching: Teaching hospitals are usually affiliated with a medical school and are more focused on education.
- Federal vs State/Local: There are 1,003 public hospitals in the US run by the federal, state or local governments.
Important Factors When Selecting a Hospital
Now that you know what type of hospital you want to work in, it’s important to consider a number of factors that may impact how enjoyable your time there is. Two of the most important factors are accreditation and financial stability.
- Accreditation means that the hospital has reviewed by self-assessment and peer reviews and has demonstrated the ability to meet regulatory requirements and standards. Hospitals must be accredited by the Joint Commission (JCAHO) as well as their state regulatory commissions.
- The financial status of a hospital will affect how stable your job is there and how well you are paid. There are a number of sources that can help you find out the financial status of a hospital - including the American Hospital Directory and Modern Healthcare’s Healthcare System Database. Do your research before you decide.
Working at a hospital is about more than just the regulations and finances. Here are some other factors you should be considering to find the right hospital for you.
Culture: Make sure to ask yourself whether the work will interest you, whether you feel comfortable with the hospital’s approach to its employees and to its patient population, and whether you like the potential coworkers you’ve met. Speak to some staff members about how they see and experience the culture. Use sources like US News World Report and Glassdoor to read reviews of the hospital. These things can give you a lot of insight into both doctor and patient experience.
Location: You’re likely already considering what locations you’re interested in, and that’s important! Whether it’s to be closer to family, targeting an area in need or a desire to travel, location plays a big part in your final decision. Make sure to balance your location preference against other priorities. Don’t feel like you should take a less-appealing opportunity just to fit your location preference.
Performance Expectations: Be clear on what your call duties and vacation days include, and how strict or flexible the hospital is with each. Have a solid understanding of how performance is measured: Productivity? Hours logged? Patient outcomes? Make sure you have a strong grasp of how this process plays out, and what the milestones are toward promotion and/or contract renewal.
Malpractice: Medical malpractice insurance is a specialized type of professional liability insurance that protects physicians from liability associated with disputed services that result in a patient’s injury or death. It is required by almost every state and hospital to practice. It often comes in two forms: occurrence and claims-made. Make sure you are aware of which kind your potential employer provides as it affects for what period of time you covered and can greatly influence liability.
Restrictive Covenants: Restrictive covenants are clauses that keep you from working within a certain distance from the hospital for a specific amount of time after the contract terminates. They’re common, but can be very vague in how they’re written. Make sure you understand what’s being said (if you have lawyers in your life, have them take a look), and that the terms are reasonable and workable for you.
Making sure you’ve found the right hospital for you is of course important. Just as you wouldn’t settle for a house that is just ok, so you also shouldn’t settle for a facility that doesn’t feel like the right fit.
The Nomad Team