Newly Fellowed GP, Dr Lisa Fraser, shares insights as she begins her journey to practice ownership.
There are many good reasons to consider buying your own practice after you achieve Fellowship. As a registrar, managing a practice in the next few years might seem daunting, but Lisa believes it’s a viable option, especially for rural GPs. Here are five reasons to consider it.
1. New Fellows can connect with their highly experienced peers.
There’s an opportunity for GPs to connect at the beginnings and ends of their careers when a young doctor takes over the reigns of an established practice.
“Older GPs say is it hard to sell their businesses, especially rurally,” says Lisa. “And new fellows are looking for mentors and to start the journey of practice ownership. What a perfect marriage!”
2. Handing over to new Fellows keeps practices in GP hands.
Lisa sees taking over a practice as a way to maintain the legacy of that business and its role in the community. She says: “Buying a practice keeps general practice in the hands of GPs, and honours the lifelong commitment of a senior GP and, sometimes, generations of GPs before that.”
Senior GPs can facilitate the process by creating a great workplace culture in their practice. This means training registrars so they are capable of and confident in running a practice. Lisa says: “To retain and attract staff, practices need to have a workplace with a healthy culture. This means valuing diversity, encouraging participation, and communicating the practice’s values and goals. Include practice management and business ownership curriculum in your whole of practice regular education sessions.”
3. New Fellows have the foundations of the skills required to be practice owners.
Buying into a practice might seem overwhelming for a young doctor, but Lisa believes new Fellows have the resources to do it.
“There are plenty of resources for registrars and new Fellows that provide opportunities for growing their skills, such as RACGP’s practice management conference,” says Lisa. “I recommend using training time to master clinical medicine and when you Fellow, then look to the resources and people to grow your skills in business if that is your interest.”
4. Owning your own practice means you can shape the workplace culture.
“Change starts with us,” says Lisa. New Fellows can contribute to growing the rural workforce by driving a practice culture with a supportive clinical environment and best practice recruitment and retention strategies.
Lisa’s advice for driving a healthy culture is to nurture staff education, training, mentoring and networking activities. She says: “We need to have more direct and regular communication with other states’ new Fellow groups to facilitate freer movement interstate and sharing of resources and contacts. We also need succession planning for older GPs and new Fellows.”
5. Regional work and living is a great choice.
Training in a rural practice offers a unique experience, and gives registrars a highly regarded set of skills for your CV.
Lisa says: “The difficulty we face is that medical training and resources are centred around metropolitan areas. As doctors start out as young single people and progress through their training, and their life stages, their life makes connections in that location that are challenging to break or move (partners, having kids, buying property). This is another reason that medical training should move away from cities and offer regular flexible sampling of rural life.”
Registrars have the flexibility and opportunity to experience rural practice during their training, which can set them up for rural practice ownership.
“Living rurally is a great choice because there is less commuting, a more natural environment, cheaper housing and business buy-in costs, and in most instances, equal or greater quality education and activities for family and children,” says Lisa.