The 2022 Career Check-Up for Orthopods

Bruce Armon

Chair of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP’s Health Law Department

Every spring is the optimal time of the year for orthopods at all levels to take stock of their professional prospects.

You may be an orthopaedic surgeon finishing a residency or fellowship (congratulations!).

Or you may already be in the workforce — in private practice or an academic setting, working with a community hospital or in a private equity environment.

My message to you all is: Now is the time to evaluate your professional prospects for the year ahead and consider adjustments you may need to make before we get too far into 2022.

If you’re an orthopod post-training and in professional practice, consider AND address these 10 key issues:

  1. How are COVID and the variants affecting your practice setting? Any slowdown in elective cases (and what does that mean for your compensation)?
  2. Have staffing challenges impacted scheduling of cases? Increased staff costs impacting profitability?
  3. How is your local hospital(s) adjusting to COVID in 2022?  How about the ambulatory surgery center(s) where you practice?
  4. Do you wish to or need to consider “extracurricular” activities to supplement your income and does your employment contract allow that activity?
  5. Any talk of consolidation in your community to help counter economic headwinds?
  6. Anyone in the group planning to retire because they are burned out or otherwise frustrated by the practice of medicine? How will the void be filled?
  7. Are you adding any new physicians later this year and do you anticipate a change in that person’s productivity and the overall pro forma for the group due to COVID or other economic factors?
  8. Any opportunity to add ancillary services (i.e., PT) to the practice in a legally compliant matter to add additional revenue streams?
  9. Is partnering with a private equity firm now a more attractive option to “cash out” for the senior members in the group?
  10. How are the payors in your community adjusting reimbursements to reflect inflationary trends?

Take stock of your physical setting, too.

Regardless of whether you are owner (in a private practice setting) or have an academic rank (in an AMC or hospital setting), it is incumbent upon you to focus on the necessary changes in your employment setting. Such focus will ensure it continues to be an attractive destination for patients, a source of professional comfort for referral sources, a competitive and welcoming environment for staff, and an enjoyable place for you to continue to practice professionally.

If you’re an orthopod in your last year or 2 of training, consider AND address these 10 key issues:

  1. Is your resume/curriculum vitae current? Is it tailored to the practice setting you are looking to join (e.g., private practice setting vs. academic setting)?
  2. How has your potential employer adjusted, survived and or thrived during the pandemic?
  3. How has the community you would like to join been impacted by COVID?
  4. What changes does your potential employer anticipate making over the next 18 months?
  5. How have staffing challenges affected your potential employer?
  6. Any issues getting OR time or cases scheduled in the local ambulatory surgery center?
  7. Has your employer or the hospital/ASC deferred on purchasing new equipment during the pandemic?
  8. How have the “owners” in your practice fared economically the past 2 years?
  9. Any consolidation trends in the community you are thinking of joining?
  10. If this first opportunity does not work out as planned, do you wish to stay in that community or are you prepared and able to relocate?

Prep for those interviews like never before.

The interview process for many residents and fellows the past two years during COVID has been far from traditional for many orthopods. And there has been a great deal of economic uncertainty.  Doing your due diligence and homework on the short and long term opportunities for the employer you wish to join is always important and perhaps more so during this COVID pandemic.

This is your optimal time to assess and adjust — while there’s still time.

It is still early in the year so there is opportunity to adjust and address to be where you need to be. You need to know the questions to ask and perform the necessary follow-up to give you professional and personal happiness. Best of luck to you!

Bruce Armon (br*********@sa**.com) is a partner and chair of the health law group in the law firm Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP ( Bruce regularly works with orthopedic surgeons, hospitals, academic medical centers, and ambulatory surgery centers with respect to corporate, transactional, compliance, reimbursement, and fraud and abuse issues.