Looking ahead to the next several months, I’ve found myself frequently wondering how many physicians will make this their year to take the plunge and join an online social network. There are significant advantages that can be gained for doctors who embrace social media, not the least of which have to do with colleaguing.
Here, five ways you and your practice can benefit hugely from such professional connections.
1. Finding a better job
The business of the health care economy continues to evolve. Physicians in small private practices face the possibility of hire by hospitals or large groups; those in primary care may transition to a concierge practice model; and yet other may change to “shift work” so they can be off-call when they’re at home. Regardless of the job change, if you lack a robust social network of professional colleagues, you may miss a perfect opportunity to transition into a better working environment. You won’t even know about possible opportunities because you won’t be connected.
2. Preparing for retirement
Physicians are incredibly busy and most of our day-to-day interactions are with other healthcare professionals. Therefore, retirement may shrink our social networks more rapidly than it would those in other professions. Don’t let this happen: Peer contacts can be a point-of-entry to other non-clinical projects such as consulting or writing that can, among many things, provide some additional income to supplement your retirement savings.
3. Helping other physicians
In the world of business, executives are constantly referring other colleagues for job openings, consulting jobs and other opportunities. Business executives understand and appreciate the importance of networking; there’s no reason we can’t do the same in our profession. Speaking engagements and expert consulting for startup businesses are just some of the non-traditional opportunities that tend to circulate through trusted friend and colleague networks.
4. Sharing ideas and fostering professional development
Invariably, when you engage with others in a social network, you’re going learn things applicable to your own career. From job negotiating skills or the finer points of practice management to the challenges of balancing clinical duties with administrative responsibilities, you’ll often encounter a wide range of links and talking points. (Just recently, for instance, I’ve noticed many physicians having online discussions related to the “meaningful use” of electronic health records to obtain the financial incentives set aside by the government.)
5. Initiating a complete career transition
Burnout is a reality in today’s round-the-clock workforce, and should you ever find yourself in the market for a complete career transition–say into the non-clinical business world of pharma, finance, managed care, health information technology or consulting–it’s quite likely that your social network can help you with leads as well as support as you prepare for your next phase. Build your contacts and keep an open mind, you never know where it might lead.