When you’re starting your physician career, one of the most important steps is to determine your personal goals and priorities. Once you’ve solidified your plan (where you’d like to live, what your ideal compensation is, etc.), you’re up for a bigger challenge: evaluating potential practices and determining the best fit.

This is easier than it sounds. It’s hard enough to pin down the right situation for you and your family, but it’s even harder to make that final decision about where you’re going to practice.

Knowing how to evaluate a practice is tricky. What do you look for? What are the red flags? What are things you accept as inevitable?

It varies depending on your situation, of course, but no matter the hiring organization, there are six basic questions you should always keep in mind when evaluating a practice.

If it helps, jot down notes about each of these questions. That way, it’s easy to compare practices later.

1) How stable is the practice?

When you’re evaluating a hiring organization, stability is key. In light of the current healthcare climate, “stability” is a relative word, but it still applies. How long have they been in business? Are they growing? Stagnant? Short on staff? An unstable practice is a sure sign of an unstable job.

2) What is the organization’s business outlook?

This is a question to ask in an interview. Learn about the organization’s plans for the future. Do they have plans for expansion, or are they in a solid niche? Keep in mind that substantial growth will probably affect your job and the roles you’re expected to play. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

3) Is the practice or organization a market leader?

Learn about the roles the practice plays not only in the community, but in the region and nation. This is another question to ask during an interview, but you can also do some research yourself. Top 100 Hospitals is a great place to look, as is the American Hospital Directory.

4) How busy are the current physicians?

Here’s where you need to look for balance: If the physicians are too busy, there could be issues. If the physicians aren’t busy enough, well, there could be even more issues. Learn as much as you can about the schedule and work expectations of your potential position.

5) How is the leadership structured?

This is a big one. Find out if the organization is led by physicians or non-physicians. Having physicians in leadership roles often leads to a more unified streamlined organization. It’s important to understand how leadership works and to determine your position in the hierarchy.

6) Are doctors expected to do administrative work?

One of the biggest complaints among physicians is the hassle of paperwork (and with healthcare reform, there certainly won’t be any less of it). Find out how your organization handles paperwork. Would it be part of your day-to-day job, or would you be lucky enough to have these duties offset?

These are merely a handful of critical questions that you should use to evaluate a practice. For more ideas, visit the Life, Money and Career Priorities and Interviewing section in Adventures in Medicine.

What would be your biggest “dealbreaker” when evaluating a practice?

Doctor Career: Sponsors

Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, Southern Illinois Healthcare supports “The Dose with Dr. Goodhook” and is partnering with Adventures in Medicine to create an open, inspiring and insightful community for residents and physicians. Click here to learn more about ways that Southern Illinois Healthcare is making practice purposeful.