A big choice for physicians: Independent or employed?

Healthcare workers gathering by a window in a hospital

(Getty/Jochen Sands)

It might come down to whether you see yourself as Marcus Welby or whether you would fit into Grey’s Anatomy.

That’s the difference between physicians who choose to be self-employed or who opt for employment by a hospital or healthcare system, according to a report in Medscape.

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While the number of employed physicians is on the rise, there’s pros and cons to each choice, according to the article. The generation gap may come into play. For younger physicians, who grew up watching Grey’s Anatomy, the TV show that shows doctors working in an academic medical center, they may want to work as an employee in a large organization, Cody Futch, regional vice president of recruiting at Merritt Hawkins, a physician recruitment firm, told the publication.

Older physicians, who grew up watching the 1970’s show Marcus Welby, M.D., which portrayed an independent doctor in private practice, may have had a different dream, he said.

What’s the advantage of employment? There’s a steady income and with hospitals hiring more physicians that tends to boost salaries. And there’s not the headaches that comes with the business challenge of running a practice. As of mid-2015, a full quarter of medical practices are hospital-owned, according to one study.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping doctors who are employed by a hospital from switching to private practice or vice versa.

In fact, the largest group in hospitals’ push to hire doctors is older physicians who are ‘refugees’ from private practice, according to the report. The 40- to 54-year-old age group makes up 4 percent of employed physicians, while those 55 and older comprise 37 percent, according to a Medscape survey.

Those older physicians can be conflicted about their decision to go the employed route, Frank Proscia, M.D., president of the Doctors Council, a New York-based union for employed physicians and dentists, told the publication. While they like the predicable income, they miss the days of true autonomy when they ran their own practices.

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