Staying Positive On Podiatry In The Long Run

Megan Lawton, DPM

   The economy is in a recession. Our 401k values are down. Reimbursement is declining. Overhead is increasing.

   Through all the recent news, it is difficult to find some positive light shining through. As a new practitioner, I try to defy the negativity and think about the future.

   What kind of letter would I write to a young practitioner if I had more than 30 years of experience in practice? Here is what I think it might say …

   Dear (young practitioner),

   Stay positive. You are a couple of years into practice now and into a groove. Be aware of but try to dismiss people who say that podiatry is in dire straits or that our profession will soon be obsolete. The profession is strong and you will not believe how many more people will need your help.

   Be thankful that, early in your schooling, you were involved with the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management. This group enables you to have a positive outlook on the profession from the very beginning.

   I know it can be grueling working more hours in the face of declining reimbursement. Trust me, you are fine. I know you hear about how much the older podiatrists get for certain procedures or whatnot. However, you will never miss what you never had. Podiatrists are still doing very well.

   Continue having compassion. There are some days you will get frustrated with patients. However, just take a step back and look at the situation from a bigger perspective. People in general have all had different experiences through life that have made them who they are, good or bad. Some may just be having a bad day as you do sometimes. It takes a lot of effort for some patients to even make it in to your office so continue to give them time and empathy.

   Keep up with current events. Make sure you are finding out what is happening in the profession as it occurs. This makes a huge difference in everything from helping improve office protocol to patient care.

   Staying at the forefront of new legislature, new coding and new products will help with growth. Remember a well-known podiatry saying: “If you are not growing, you are dying.”

   Invest in new technology. Imagine if you do not get any new computer programs, diagnostic equipment or therapeutic machines from this day onward. You would be so far behind the curve and stuck in the “old school” ways of treating patients.

   Continue to seek out emerging products on the market that provide better results with less invasion.

   Provide your experiences on the technology and be part of the development process.

   Find more non-medical interests. Over time, you will appreciate that you have devoted some time to other activities besides work. This will allow you to converse with your patients over the years and provide good bedside manner.

   Recreate your marketing strategy frequently. You will be glad you got involved with things like the Internet, giving presentations, volunteering, referral pads, writing local articles and sponsorships. Marketing comes in many different forms so search out which ones work best for your practice. Set realistic goals with specific timeframes and ways to track your progress.

   Things happen for a reason. What a cliché, right? It is true though. Bad things are usually a blessing in disguise. You may not realize it right away. Chances are, some of your classmates had the “first year” curse and were looking to work at another practice after just one year. They may wind up at a practice of their dreams. Perhaps it is a practice they would not have found if they were complacent.

   This goes back to the theme of staying positive. Always search for the best in every situation, no matter how horrible.

   Just remember that throughout fluctuations in the economy, reimbursements or working hours, podiatry is a great profession. The most important thing is to keep having fun.

   What would your letter be like? Hopefully, it will sound like the sentiment expressed in Brad Paisley’s country song, “Letter to Me.”

“And I’d end by saying have no fear, these are nowhere near the best years of your life.”

Dr. Lawton is in private practice in Naples, Fla.

Dr. McCord recently retired from practice at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

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