Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS
July 10, 2023
Early July is a special time in medicine. During this month every year, thousands of surgeons and physicians of all specialties shift from their roles as residents and fellows to roles as attending physicians. As the Executive Director and CEO of the ACS, I want to congratulate everyone who is making a transition this month. I remember my own transition from residency to fellowship, and a year later to attending surgeon. For the vast majority of us, this is the culmination of a long journey and a moment to reflect on achievements with pride, even as we recognize how much more we have to learn.
This is also the point at which practice management becomes a concrete part of surgeons’ working lives. We talk about this in training, but thinking about the business of medicine in the theoretical is quite different than living it. Our goal at the ACS is to provide support that enhances both surgeons’ financial positions and careers and our patients’ outcomes. We are committed to offering a robust suite of practice management resources to new (and not-so-new) surgeons, today and throughout our careers.
The words practice management are sometimes used to indicate the managerial and administrative activities that private/small business practice surgeons and their patient-facing office staff must do. In the ACS, these words mean that, but also much more. We use practice management to refer to myriad resources for private/small business practice surgeons and employed surgeons, as well as incorporating information on legal support, coding, billing, negotiation, enhancing value, and personal finance, some number of which are topics relevant to all of us.
The ACS offers these resources because we recognize that there are simply not enough hours during residency to teach everything surgeons need to know about building a surgical practice. New attendings must learn the nuances of contract negotiation, legal matters, hiring, firing, contracting with insurance companies, and more. Failing to understand the complexities of the regulatory burdens under which we work can lead to legal and financial struggles, so obtaining this knowledge is crucial to successful practice.
With this in mind, we have recently made our practice management resources easier to access for surgeons across all disciplines, practice types, and circumstances. All existing resources are now organized in a single hub on our website. Visit facs.org/practice-management and check back frequently, as additional resources, educational offerings, and tools will be continually added.
If you are a surgeon who is employed or seeking employment, our resources for you start at square one: helping you secure favorable working conditions and fair compensation in your new role.
First, you can access a discounted contract review through a legal firm specializing in serving physicians. With a rapid turnaround, their attorneys can advise you about contracting and negotiation.
Importantly, we have also arranged for special discounted ACS member access to physician compensation data reports from three major companies that offer them—the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), American Medical Group Association (AMGA), and Association of American Medical Colleges. You can purchase these reports at substantial discounts, in some cases with data on multiple, closely related specialties in one package. Depending on your practice setting, one or more of these reports will be most meaningful to you. We support and engage surgeons of every specialty and in every practice setting.
Around the time you are gathering information from compensation reports and considering a legal review, you may want to familiarize yourself with contract negotiation skills via our newest webinar, Negotiation: Taxonomy, Tactics, Traps, and Tips, which was first presented to an overwhelmingly positive response at the Leadership & Advocacy Summit in April 2023.
Combining these resources will help you establish yourself successfully at the healthcare organization you are joining. These tools also can help ensure that you plan for the long, fulfilling, and productive career delivering high-quality care we all envision as we embark in practice. This is an element of “healing all with skill and trust.” Supporting all surgeons is a key goal of the ACS and has been represented in our motto for more than a century.
If you are a surgeon in private/small business practice and engaged in practice management in the strictest sense of the term, your work is incredibly valuable and we have resources to support you specifically.
These include a primer on coding, billing, regulatory compliance, and branding, as well as a primer on contracting with private payers. In addition, our guides (with articles and videos) to buying and selling surgical practices are helpful for surgeons taking these career-defining steps. You will also benefit from the MGMA or AMGA compensation reports, which include data on salaries and will be essential when purchasing a practice or hiring associates.
To serve those surgeons entering rural private practice with unique needs, we have also created a module on the rewards and challenges of rural surgical practice. This engaging webinar, led by Michael Sarap, MD, FACS, former Chair of the ACS Rural Surgery Advisory Council, and Alisha D. Reiss, MD, FACS, President-Elect of the ACS Ohio Chapter, includes content about the fundamentals of practice in small communities and rural living. We are mindful that we have members serving their patients in every type of environment, from the most urban neighborhood to the most remote frontier.
Being a new attending surgeon is incredibly exciting, and for most, will include a higher salary than when in training. Many surgeons have focused on saving, investing, and planning for years. For those who have not yet embraced these considerations, there may be new interest in information on personal financial wellness. To meet that need, the ACS has developed a series of webinars on topics that span the entire working lives of surgeons, from first employment through midcareer practice protection to retirement.
Being an attending is a different phase of our careers than being in training. The ACS, representing the entire House of Surgery, is committed to offering essential support to all surgeons throughout their careers—including the moment in early July when many take the substantial step from training to practice.
If there is another practice management resource you need to augment your surgical career, improve your business acumen, or enhance your well-being, please let us know. The more the ACS can provide directed support to surgeons in practice, the better for our workforce, our profession, and our patients.
Registration for Clinical Congress 2023 is now open, and more than a thousand of our colleagues have already registered. The conference returns to Boston this year and will include content focused on both employed practice and private practice. The 4 days we will spend together will also include sessions on contract negotiation, work-life integration, career satisfaction, balance with family, and what senior surgeons wish they had known earlier in their careers, along with the scores of sessions on the clinical practice of surgery. I look forward to seeing you and all of our colleagues there. Register at facs.org/clincon2023. Use the hashtag #ACSCC23, and tag me on social media when you do.