One skill that is not emphasized and rarely even mentioned in our medical training is that medical practice is still a business. What this means is that even if you practice good medicine, you may still not earn enough to pay the rent if you are unable to manage your finances. How are you expected to run a medical business when you spent the last decade of your life learning how to practice medicine?
You could stay at a university. Universities often pay you a flat salary with a production bonus. You don’t have to worry about paying your staff. Or you just join a medical practice and hope for the best. Sadly, that is how the majority of us end up.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can learn about the business of medicine. One recommendation that I have heard is that doctors should obtain a business degree to help them with their medical business. Is that really a good idea?
A Business Degree Can Strengthen Your Medical Practice.
Sure, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) will give you credibility. I have one colleague who obtained his MBA the same time as his Bachelor’s Degree in college, while another obtained his MBA during medical school. It certainly sounds more impressive to have an MD, MBA after your name. In general, the rigors of formally learning about business and finance will provide you with fundamental knowledge to run your practice. This will translate into greater profits for the rest of your medical career. If your practice is small enough, you may not even need a practice manager if you can run the books yourself. Even if you have a crew of business associates running the practice, you are more equipped to deal with issues if you have the background.
You can either take time off from your medical education to obtain an MBA, or you could even obtain an executive MBA while still practicing medicine. It all depends on how motivated you are and how well you can multitask.
A Business Degree Can Delay Your Earnings.
Most respectable business degrees require a two-year commitment. That means two extra years of potentially expensive tuition and delayed peak earnings from the practice of medicine. Even an executive MBA will require additional time off on weekends and evenings away from your family.
What if a business degree isn’t even applicable to your medical practice? That can certainly be the case. One of the most valuable aspects of business school is that you are given an intensive environment to network with your future colleagues. This can translate into future business deals. That doesn’t seem like what you’d actually need as a physician. Having friends who run Fortune 500 companies does not necessarily help you negotiate with Medicare to reimburse your for your services.
Likewise, even if you are better equipped to run your medical practice, you may not necessarily have the time to do it if you intend to be a full-time clinician. Your business manager, chief operating officer, or finance officer will still have to run the business.
Do you Want to Run A Hospital?
What a business degree does do is give you a title of credibility to enter the administrative side of medicine. If you wanted to join the administrative staff of your hospital or become Chief Medical Officer, an MBA will definitively improve your chances of being voted in. Does it matter where you obtain that business degree? Unlikely. I have seen plenty of hospital administrators will online business degrees or executive MBA’s. Skeptics might even say that the material you learn in business school is somewhat related only peripherally to the role of a hospital administrator.
What this also means is that you become an administrator, you will unlikely continue practicing medicine on a full-time basis. In this case, would you have needed to go through residency? Maybe not.