There are many advantages to developing a strong network of colleagues.  That network should include nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physicians.  Having a broad personal network will benefit you clinically and professionally.  Having your own referral base (other providers who tell patients to see you) will help you in the following ways:

  1. Job security. If patients were sent directly to you (by providers or other patients) they are more likely to request seeing only you, and are more likely to go with you if you change offices.  If you do change employers, your referral base will likely tell patients to see you at your new location.  This can help you when it comes to employment and compensation negotiating power.
  2. Less time spent explaining who you are. It’s a delight when I see a patient who was sent to me by a PA or NP.  I always introduce myself when I see new patients. But if a PA or NP sent the patient, I get asked fewer questions about what that means, my training and my skill level.  Then we can spend the full amount of time dedicated to patient problems, management and counseling. 
  3. Quick response time. This can work both ways – from primary care to specialty care and vice versa.  If a clinician I know personally calls the office to ask for a quick appointment for a patient or to ask a question on the phone, I’m always there for my network.  Conversely, I’ve deeply appreciated being able to call a primary care office and get a patient seen quickly for a primary care issue.
  4. When it’s time to change jobs having a strong professional network will give you a huge advantage.  Not only will you have the inside track on new jobs not even advertised yet, but also health care is a small community.  Knowing someone who went to school with the doctor you just interviewed with may make the difference in getting the job.  The old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” is extremely true when it comes to networking. 

Now that you know it’s important to build these networks, what are some ways to start cultivating them? 

Pharmaceutical dinners and conferences are a great way to meet clinicians in your area.  Volunteering and leading in a professional organization or patient based group is the best way to build a tight bond with other colleagues.  Outside organizations such as churchs, masons and charitable organizations are also good ways to develop a broad network.  Also, don’t forget about alumni associations and teaching either in the form of presenting clinical lectures or precepting students.