Working in a medical practice has more opportunities for career growth than many people imagine. Of course, short of investing in medical school, you aren’t going to work your way up the career ladder to become the doctor who owns the practice. But don’t limit yourself by thinking, “Once a receptionist, always a receptionist,” or that you can’t learn new skills to advance your professional standing, and earning potential.
The first step in achieving your career goals is being very clear about what those goals are. Are you interested in transitioning out of the business side of medicine and into the clinical side? Would being “the expert” in coding and billing make you feel proud? Does the world of electronic health records pique your curiosity? Do you aspire to manage a practice? Understanding what makes you tick, what excites you, and what you’re naturally drawn to is immensely helpful in mapping out a career plan.
Once you have a goal in mind, it’s time for action. What’s your first step? Maybe you need to have a conversation with your boss about your goals and inquire about cross-training or whether the practice offers tuition reimbursement for college or online course work. Perhaps you simply need to set aside time each week for self-study in an area that interests you (there’s no shortage of free information out there on every topic and career path imaginable). Or maybe, to achieve your ultimate goal, the first step will be a big one, like cutting back to part-time so that you can return to school. Whether your first step is a tiny one or a big one, think it through and then – if you’re serious – take the leap.
If additional training or education is needed to reach your goal, options abound. Check with your local community college (even if you already have a degree) about certificate and degree programs in nursing, medical imaging, business management, information technology, billing and coding, and many others.
Online learning is another possibility, whether your goal is to receive a degree or simply broaden your knowledge base. The Medical Group Management Association (mgma.com) offers a wide variety of webinars and online courses for members and non-members. There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of organizations that offer online courses for individuals interested in practice management, medical assisting, billing, transcription, and just about every other medical office occupation you can think of. Buyer beware, however – not everything offered via the internet is on the up and up. Do your homework before parting with your credit card number.
Attending workshops, seminars, and conferences is an excellent way to not only gather new information, skills, and knowledge, but also to connect with other healthcare professionals (always a good career development strategy). Here again, the MGMA is a good place to look for events, as is the Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management (pahcom.com). If you work in a dental, chiropractic, or veterinary practice, check into attending specialty conferences in those fields. Many associations also have local chapters that offer valuable educational and networking opportunities.
Whatever your career goals are for 2011 and beyond, don’t wait around for “something to happen.” Get clear on what you want and then take the necessary steps to make something happen.