There is no better feeling than graduating medical school. The crazy competition between you and others who were all top of their respective classes is over on an academic level. You’re a big kids now and it’s time to face the real world. You’re now going to be responsible for the lives of dozens and perhaps hundreds. You’ve matched with your preferred residency, hopefully, and will feel like taking on the world.
However, a few problems will face you in your early years as a doctor. For starters the crazy amount of work hours will drain you and might cause you to suffer from burnout. The competition you thought was over turns out to be alive and well. You’re competing with your fellow residents for the approval and ratings of your attending. You want to be the best surgeon in the team. You want to be chief resident. So, welcome to the real world.
Finding patients will be another serious concern. Because what is a doctor without patients? After all these years, it would suck to not have lives to save. Of course it would be great if that was because everyone on Earth was completely healthy, but it’s not so nice when people are still sick and not seeking your medical expertise. There are a bunch of ways you can boost your number of patients, and these tips will be especially helpful at the start as you prepare to launch your career.
Being the best you can possibly be
For starters, you can work on being the best doctor you can be. You have studied to practice for at least 8 years of your life, and it's not only because you just wanted to be top of your class. But, also because, this is what you are planning to do as a career. Even if you have absolutely no passion for the job, you still need it to feed your family. So, it should be your main goal to acquire all the information you can and be the best doctor you can be.
Clinical skills are essential as well. Patients who know nothing about medicine or on examination techniques can tell if you’re examining them right. It’s likely that you visited a doctor yourself whether before or after you became one. Some physicians just do not make you comfortable. Whether it be them working in an unorganized way or causing you some mild discomfort, you just know in your gut that that doctor isn't well prepared and you're unlikely to see them again.
Word of mouth is very important in most careers, and even more so in medicine. When someone’s in pain they need someone they can trust to alleviate their pain and suffering. The only way they can find that person if they don’t already have a doctor is by asking family and friends. People who visit you can either tell their friends or family whether you are worth seeing. This will depend on the impression they developed based on how you dealt with them and the results of your treatment and advice.
The internet is another great source to find doctors. Some doctors even have Facebook pages these days and it may not seem entirely professional, but it still directs people towards their practice. FindaTopDoc profiles are an excellent way to reach patients as it is the leading search engine when it comes to finding physicians.
FindaTopDoc also has a new feature where patients can submit medical questions so that doctors can answer them online. This is all free of charge for both the patient and the doctor answering the question. This feature is wonderful because doctors can reassure patients and tell them to wait and see, or they can tell them if visiting a doctor is necessary and what to do until they reach a doctor. This feature also has a sidebar that will show people asking questions the nearest doctors in that specialty. For instance, if you post a question saying your eye has been red all day, the side bar will show you ophthalmologists who are near you. This is a great feature that helps both patients and doctors. Remember that your FindaTopDoc profile can lead patients to you, but whether or not they like you and choose to visit you again will depend on how good of a doctor you are.
Telemedicine is another great way to publicize yourself and get your name out there. By offering your services online, patients know that you’re up to date and don’t mind using technology, which also means you’re not stuck in the past. It will also make you available for consultations from other doctors. By helping other doctors out, you become well-known in your specialty and they will be more likely to refer patients to you in the future.
Giving your patients a number to text you with is also a great feature that most practices these days should add. This will help build your relationship with your patients and at the same time will boost your practice. Some doctors choose to do this for free while others charge a small fee. You could also have incoming texts forwarded to one or two nurses automatically so that they can deal with issues that don’t require your interference.
Getting into a booming private practice helps as well. If your partners are well-known and have lots of patients, then being associated with them will definitely help your image and give your career a necessary boost. You could also fill in for your partners while they’re away on vacation and their patients will realize you’re a good doctor too and will send others your way. Getting into a blossoming private practice won’t be easy though unless you have good connections and more importantly, you’ll need to be a great doctor.
Other ways to attract patients is by publishing papers. This will make you more popular in your field and will establish your position as an expert in a certain topic. In turn, your colleagues will realize this and more consults will be sent your way. Publications are also likely to show up on internet searches. If you publish a paper on sarcoidosis and a patient with the condition, or suspects he has the condition searches the disease your name will likely pop up. Naturally the patient will know that you’re an expert on the matter and will visit you if you’re in the same geographic location.
Your community presence is pretty important too. You can either be the down to earth, “one of us” doc, or you can be the arrogant doctor. You’ll need to be friendly to people in your community and show up to local events. When you run into patients at the supermarket or the gas station, wave and have a little chat. People need to feel like you’re one of them because automatically they’ll feel like you care. You become a doctor and a friend. If you’re someone they trust, then they’ll definitely come to you when they’re hurting and in pain.
The beginning is the toughest part. You need to start strong and keep going without looking back. You’ve had your training and you’re now prepared to save lives. There should be no reason to doubt yourself or think that you can’t do it. You didn’t come this far to give up or believe that you’re not good enough to be a doctor. The patients will come eventually, all you need to do is follow these tips and work on being the best doctor you can be for anyone who needs you.