So, you’ve been thinking about opening an independent NP Clinic, but you’re just not sure where to start? In our last NP blog post, we spoke to Margaret Jean Wear, owner of Adolescent Healthcare Associates in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, about the top entrepreneurial, intellectual, and technological resources for new NP clinics. Wear joins us again to help you navigate the potentially intimidating transition from NP to business owner.
- Stand out from the crowd. First and foremost, your clinic is a business. To be successful, you’ll need to develop a plan of attack to compete within your market. Honestly consider what makes you different, and identify your niche before making any other decisions. What do you have to offer that other local clinics don’t? What will appeal to the patient population? What are the unique dynamics within your community? As she specializes in treating adolescents, Wear’s downtown office location just down the road from community college was a carefully calculated business decision. Don’t take chances; Wear urges, “Choose your passion, and identify your strength.”
- Develop a network of trusted advisors. When developing your program, have the foresight to realize the importance of collaboration with physicians and other medical professionals with expertise in your specialty. Going to national conferences was an important part of Wear’s path to business ownership; here, she was able to get validation for her ideas from other providers while building her professional network. Even after opening two successful clinics over the course of her career, Wear continues to seek insight through her network of trusted advisors. On the contrary, be careful with whom you share your ideas. Wear warns,“When you create something and put your whole heart and soul into it, I wish I would have known that there are people waiting in line to copy, to compete, to take your ideas.”
- All good things take time. While you may be anxiously awaiting the day when you’ll open your doors, don’t set unrealistic expectations regarding your timeline. When Wear opened her downtown clinic in June 2015, almost two years had passed since she embarked upon her own entrepreneurial journey. While the Medicaid process took the longest, other issues arose that kept things from moving forward. Wear warns new clinic owners to be very careful not to overpromise regarding any element outside the realm of your immediate control. Unexpected delays related to construction or legal issues may arise leaving you unable to proceed. As you set the tone for your business, you never want to show your patients- or the public- that you’re okay with coming up short on the promises you’ve made.
- Experience is key. If you’re an NP interested in opening a clinic, the best way to determine if you’re ready to go out on your own is to take a realistic inventory of the skills you’ve learned throughout the course of your career. According to Wear, you must already have some experience working independently- experience in originating and program development will be most useful to your independent endeavors. Don’t jump in prematurely; while valuable, your clinical experience is just one facet of business ownership.
- Fill in the gaps. As you undergo the transition into becoming a business owner, you’ll quickly realize that there’s more to owning a clinic than possessing the clinical capability. Your experience will serve as a solid foundation, but going it alone will, undoubtedly, require supplementary education. Wear recommends seeking out additional resources to help fill in the inevitable knowledge gaps. Before opening her first clinic, she went to business administration classes at her local community college but also recommends shadowing a clinic owner who can help you identify real-world best practices. If possible, try to learn what works and what doesn’t from someone who’s already worked out the kinks.
- Don’t underestimate the three critical components. Finding a collaborating physician, a clinic site, and a reputable malpractice insurer are the most integral elements crucial to the success of any new practice; timing is key. When Wear began her journey, she searched for clinic sites while simultaneously attempting to identify a collaborating physician. Unfortunately, while waiting to connect with a physician, she lost two potential clinic sites, and, even once she found an interested party, she still had to work out the kinks of her malpractice insurance before the physician was willing to make a commitment.
Her advice? First, secure a physician, and immediately contact your preferred malpractice insurer. Be sure to ask plenty of questions and thoroughly explain your full scope of practice.
A reputable agency will act as your consultant throughout the insurance process and help determine the best arrangement for both parties. By properly managing these critical components, you can set your clinic up for success while protecting yourself, your business, and your future.