Why private practice will always survive: Seven doctors who left employment tell why


Employed physicians are often torn. Many relish the steady salary and ability to focus on being a physician rather than handle administrative duties, but they bemoan their employers’ rules and their lack of input into key decisions. And thus, many doctors are leaving employment to start a private practice. For this article, seven physicians talked about why they chose private practice.

Leaving employment is ‘an invigorating time’

On Sept. 9, Aaron Przybysz, MD, gave notice to his employer, a large academic medical center in Southern California, that he would be leaving to start a private practice.

“It’s an invigorating time,” said Dr. Przybysz, 41, an anesthesiologist and pain management physician who plans to open his new pain management practice on Dec. 1 in Orange County. He has picked out the space he will rent but has not yet hired his staff.

“I’ve been serious about doing this for at least a year,” Dr. Przybysz said. “What held me back is the concern that my business could fail. But even if that happens, what’s the worst that could occur? I’d have to find a new job as an employed physician.

“I feel comfortable with the business side of medicine,” he said. His father was an executive in the automotive industry and his father-in-law is an entrepreneur in construction and housing.

“One of the biggest reasons for moving to private practice is making sure I don’t miss my kids’ activities,” he said, referring to his children, ages 9 and 7. Recently, he said, “I had to spend the whole weekend on call in the hospital. I came home and had to sleep most of the next day.

“I love the people that I have been working with and I’ve learned and matured as a physician during that time,” he said. “But it was time to move on.”

The desire to be in charge

In Medscape’s recent Employed Physicians Report, doctors said they enjoy the steady salary and ability to focus on patients, which comes with being employed.

Other physicians feel differently. John Machata, MD, a solo family physician in the village of Wickford, R.I., 20 miles south of Providence, chose private practice because “I have total control,” he said. “I make decisions that I couldn’t have made as an employed physician, such as closing my practice to new patients.”

He can also decide on his work hours. “I see patients for 35 hours, 4 days a week and then I have a 3-day weekend.” In a large organization, “the focus is on revenue,” said Dr. Machata. “They’re always measuring your productivity. If you are slower, you won’t make enough money for them.”

When he worked for a large group practice about a decade ago, “I felt burnt out every day,” he said. “I had to see patients every 10 minutes, with no breaks for anything in between. Within a month I was devising my exit strategy.”

Dr. Machata maintains long appointments – 25 minutes for a typical follow-up visit and 55 minutes for an annual check-in – but he still earns above the state average for primary care doctors. “I have no nurse or front-office staff, which means I can save $125,000 to $150,000 a year,” he said.

In 2018, for the first time, employed physicians outnumbered self-employed physicians, according to a survey by the American Medical Association (AMA). By the end of 2021, more than half (52.1%) of U.S. physicians were employed by hospitals or health systems.

Yet the negatives of employment have begun to turn some physicians back toward private practice. Many physicians who were employed by a hospital or a large practice have become disillusioned and want to return to private practice.


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