Thanks to differences in personality, aptitude, and personal preference, no one is great at everything when it comes to practicing medicine. Even if you're one of those jack-of-all-trades types, you know that other physicians may work better with certain patient types or conditions. When you're in a group, you can worry less about being all things to all patients and start to discover what you're really awesome at. After all, you'll have a team of people doing the same thing and cheering you on.
From lunch and learns, to rep visits, to office birthdays, to plain old "We all wanted to go out for Mexican," working with a group of your peers (rather than just employees) can make for a fuller lunch-hour social calendar. While plenty of single practices have great office dynamics, there's definitely a difference between only socializing with people who work for you on a day to day basis, versus socializing with people who work alongside you.
Last time I checked, you didn't go to Med School to work as a recruiter, IT professional, or branch manager. You probably went so you could practice medicine, right? The reality of single practices or even two-physician practices is that the MDs (or DOs) in charge have to do a lot that isn't medicine. In a group practice, you may be able to pool your resources and hire people to perform business functions, or, in the case of a larger corporate group of practices, that will all be done for you. No awkward interviews for that receptionist position or late nights trying to pick a new payroll software provider. Phew!
When you have difficult cases, run into a treatment quandary, or just need a listening ear from someone in the same boat, working in a group practice means that support from your peers is never too far away. You don't have to wait for an annual convention to talk journal articles, debate practice guidance, or discuss a diagnostic challenge you're facing, since your colleagues are there every single day. Thanks to group practices, it doesn't have to be lonely at the top.
While singing kumbaya and supporting your colleagues is important in a group practice setting, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone. As you advance in your career and see patients and families who are likely to give feedback and spread the word about you, you'll have several yardsticks for your personal performance in the office every day. In a single practice, you're the best physician by default. Wouldn't you rather be the best physician for real?
As the Bard said, "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown." When you're the physician in a single practice, everything falls on you. While that gives you power, it doesn't give you freedom. After all, the livelihoods of an entire group of people rely on your work, so maintaining a good work/life balance may not always be on the agenda. When you're part of a large team, that pressure is lifted. During the day you practice medicine. What you do with your free time is up to you!
More physicians, more patients. More patients, more money. More money, better gear. That's how the math works, and it means that a group practice usually has access to the latest tools and technology, while single practices have to be more economical. While the MD who hung his own shingle way back when may still be using 90s equipment and working on dated machines, you'll be using some of the best medical technology that the marketplace has to offer without having to scrimp and save for years.
Group practices offer an amazing opportunity to find a niche and run with it that's a lot harder to do in a single or two-physician practice. While you can certainly establish yourself in a pediatric subspecialty no matter where you practice, it's a lot easier when you're given the support system to do so, backed by other physicians with diverse areas of interest. If you love treating newborns or have a real interest in metabolic issues, for example, you can make that known. New patients will be advised accordingly.
If a single-practice doctor needs to be away from work, it can be a scheduling nightmare that puts loyal patients in a tough situation. But in a group practice, when there's a legitimate need to leave, a professional event you'd like to attend, or a vacation that's calling your name, that's okay. Not only are there are other physicians who can see your patients, there's a whole support system available to ensure you're able to take that time without endangering the business or abandoning your patients to the care of an unknown physician who's not accountable to you.
Ultimately, the biggest item on the "pro" list for group practices is how some of these items work together to make you a better doctor. With support from your peers, a healthy drive to be the best, a work/life balance that doesn't leave you burned out, the ability to use new technology and learn new skills, and the opportunity to see more patients and grow in areas that matter to you, you're likely to experience professional growth that will result in a more well-rounded, enthusiastic member of the profession.