This article is for residents and new practitioners who are not planning to open a practice immediately following residency.
The demands of an endodontic residency do not leave a lot of time for introspection, but planning your career as an endodontist requires exactly that. By evaluating your needs and determining your personal and professional goals before starting your job hunt, you increase your odds of finding the right position that will set your course for a satisfying career.
Here are some tips for getting started:
- Understand the four major endodontic private practice settings.
- Understand your professional, financial and personal priorities and how they intersect.
Professional Goals (3-5 years)
- Clinical Priorities
Maintaining and enhancing the skills learned in residency. For example, improving your clinical practice efficiency and increasing the number complex endodontic procedures you perform.
- Nonclinical Priorities
Do you want to open your own practice eventually? Do you want to join a practice as an associate and become a partner? How do you plan to learn the business of endodontics, including running a small business, and to prepare for the financial investment?
You may have entered residence set on where you intend to practice. It is important that you pick a geographic location where you and your family will be happy, but the more flexible you are, the more opportunities you will have. Leaving a practice can set your career back, and you will have to comply with any non-compete clauses in your employment contract.
- Geography impacts opportunity
This boils down to socioeconomic factors, beginning with the number of endodontists in the market. If the endodontic market is saturated, your options will be more limited and competition for an associate position more intense. You may not be able to develop the practice you want in your desired location.
Requirements vary by state. Be aware of the requirements to become a licensed endodontist if you are considering moving out of your state of residency. Review state licensure requirement information.
Some new endodontists who wish to practice in saturated markets are starting their careers by working as part-time independent contractors for multiple endodontic and/or general dentist/multispecialty practices. This is a recent development, and it will be interesting to see how these career paths evolve.
When considering a position, realistically assess the amount of money you need to support yourself and your family and pay off your student loans. Fiscal discipline and planning is key to your short-term (buying into a practice, opening a practice, buying a house) and long-term (saving for a child's education, retirement) goals, regardless of your level of student debt. Consult a financial planner to determine the best strategies for paying off student debt while saving for the future. Some tips for achieving financial stability include:
- Live within your means.
- Do not change your standard of living in the first couple years of practice. Any signing bonus or salary guarantee comes with the expectation that you will make the money back through productivity over time. If that doesn't happen, your income may actually decrease at that point.
- Don't accumulate additional debt in your first few years of practice.
Personality Match: Soft Skills
When you interview for an endodontic position, you can assume that you are qualified for the job. The final hiring decision will be based heavily on "soft skills."
The practice wants to see how well you fit into the practice and how you treat people. This begins the moment you enter the office. It may be a cliché, but the analogies to a marriage are not far-off! You are entering a contractual relationship, you will spend most of your working hours in the same office, and your financial interests are intertwined.
You are also assessing the fit. What matters to you in terms of a practice environment and the kinds of people you work best with? Think about specific professional relationships and why they have been beneficial or conflicted.
When you leave residency for private practice, you have 100 percent responsibility for patient care decisions. The transition from an academic environment to the more isolated world of private practice can be challenging. By taking the time now to assess your goals, personal working style and other variables, you increase the odds of making a good first step in your endodontic career.