professional thinking

If you find yourself in the market for another job, there are some big questions you’ll need to ask yourself before you begin the search. Where do I want to live? What kind of practice do I want to work in? What kind of patient base do I want to serve?

While it’s easy to get lost in the details of a potential opportunity, it’s also important to step back and ask yourself an important question: is your long-term goal to work as an associate, or do you want to be a partner in the practice?


As you may already know, an associate is the employee of another doctor or group practice. Practice owners decide to take on an associate for a variety of reasons, most often to meet additional patient demand as the practice grows. By hiring an associate, owners can increase profits, decrease their workloads, expand services and generally add value to the practice.

The downside of an associateship is that you will not have any ownership in the practice. However, that can also be the upside. Associates will be compensated regardless of a business’s success or failure; they are simply employees. An associate’s risk is far less than a partner’s risk, even though they may have the same workload and responsibilities.

If you have a limited interest in owning or managing a practice, why take on the administrative duties and risk associated with becoming a partner?


Partners are part owners of a practice, and just like an associateship, there are pros and cons to becoming a partner. Many owners choose to take on a partner to reduce their own risk in the business. With every new partner added, owners are responsible for a smaller share of debt and other liabilities that come with owning a business.

Maybe you are willing to take on more risk in exchange for a larger payoff, and maybe there is an owner out there who is nearing retirement and wants an exit strategy. That can often be the intersection where perfect partnerships are formed. Just make sure that the business operation is everything the owner makes it out to be. Conducting a careful, detailed investigation of the financial health and wellness of a practice before becoming a partner is paramount in the decision-making process.

Positive Relationships

Regardless of whether you want to be an employee of a business or an eventual owner, you must determine if a practice is the right fit for you.

Evaluate the practice thoroughly. Look online to see what customers are saying. Take a detailed inventory of the equipment and state of technology currently in use. Talk to the owner(s) about the philosophy of care, and find out if that viewpoint aligns with your own. Above all, investigate the financial health of the practice. Is it in good financial standing? Has it always been? What have the last 5, 10 or even 15 years looked like financially? With any service-oriented business, there are good months and bad months. What you want to be sure of is that the overall financial trend of the practice is positive and climbing.

The diverse nature of the industry means there are associateships that make sense for some and partnership opportunities that make sense for others. While speaking with a professional colleague or mentor that you trust can help you weigh the pros and cons of each opportunity, consulting a professional recruiter that is familiar with the industry can prove valuable as well, as they are constantly on the forefront of the industry’s hiring trends and can speak knowledgeably about the current state of the industry to help you determine your next, best step down in your professional career.

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