Finally, after years of hard work, good grades and months of submitting applications, you’ve been accepted into dental school. The pressure is off.
At that point in your life, if you were to have closed your eyes and gazed into your future what would you have seen? What was your vision? Did you see yourself in a traditional private practice where you were an extension of your patient family? A situation similar your family dentist or mentor? Did you envision the newest hi-tech gadgets in a stylish office in a medical/dental complex?
One thing is certain, it’s not likely that you envisioned being an employee dentist for the rest of your professional life. In a 2011 ADEA survey of dental school seniors, dental students indicate that control of their time (99%), service to others (94%), being self-employed (88%), looking at income potential (89%) and working with their hands (86%) are either important or very important reasons for pursuing dentistry. Having a good job with benefits isn’t mentioned. Rarely do we enter the profession looking to work for someone else.
Now here you are in dental school. Some of you still have time to spend and skills to learn prior to actually entering the profession. Others are within months of graduation. So how has school met your expectation? Do you feel well prepared for the technicalities of practice? Do you have confidence in your skills as a practitioner?
Has your vision changed? Frequently, dental students are flooded with information from corporate and large group practices. Many, by the time they reach their fourth year, feel that entering the profession as an employee dentist is the only practical option available. I’m here to argue the case favoring traditional private practice. True, it may be necessary to gain some practical experience and build speed and confidence while working in an office other than your own. However, if your desire is to make decisions, own your practice and develop your entrepreneurial skills, it’s necessary to have an exit strategy.
Traditional private practice is difficult. There are challenges presented by government regulation, intrusion of insurance companies, being a small fish in a big pond, and uncertainty about making the correct business decisions. Numbers from the latest U.S. Census show that this group of care providers is declining as a percentage of the whole. The dream is threatened from outside pressures and influences.
There is an answer. If like-minded dentists join together for their common good, they can accomplish together what they could not do alone. It is possible to enjoy practice independence on one hand with economies of scale while being part of a larger group that on the other hand allows you to compete with corporate and large group practices. If your dream is to own your practice, make your own decisions and compete in an ever more complex business world, know that it can be done!
This is the first post in a series on transitioning into private practice. Stay tuned for more posts on how to accomplish your dream of practice ownership.
~Dr. Steven L. Peacock, founding member of the Dental Cooperative