How to choose a location for your first—or next—job as a neonatologist

There are many factors to contemplate when choosing where to start—or continue—your career as a neonatologist. Here are a few aspects to consider in making your decision. 

  • The practice’s structure. The structure and scheduling model of the practice will vary depending on the needs of the community and the organization’s mission. For example, what is the acuity level of the community, and is there subspecialty support to effectively handle that acuity? 
  • Culture fit. What is the practice’s culture, leadership style and size? Do your interests and clinical competencies align with the practice’s goals and objectives and the anticipated scope of your position?  
  • Stability. Is it a new practice, or does it have a proven record of stability and growth? Does the practice have strong ties to the community? 
  • Location allure. What recreational, entertainment and cultural attractions does the location offer? Will you be able to find housing in your preferred location? Is the location near friends or family? 
  • Night coverage policy. What are the call responsibilities for the position? Rules will vary between practices. For example, in some groups, attending physicians are required to participate in in-hospital night coverage, while in other practices, night coverage is provided by neonatology fellows, nurse practitioners or residents, and the attending neonatologist takes call from home. 
  • Advancement ladder. Are there opportunities for advancement? Does the practice offer a mentoring program or any leadership-building activities? 
  • Research, education, quality and safety resources. Is the practice affiliated with any academic institutions? Does it have access to data and best practices guidelines? Does it encourage its clinicians to participate in research studies and publish their findings? Check if the practice is accredited by organizations like the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education and American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation. 
  • Practice network. Is the group in just a single location or do you have the opportunity to work at several sites? 
  • Compensation and benefits. Salary for clinicians will vary with geographic location and size of the practice. Some larger practices offer a profit-sharing bonus, and although it fluctuates based on the practice’s performance, the bonus can be significant. 

Draw on data and demographics  

There are other factors to consider when weighing job opportunities. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you: 

  • Find out the age demographics of the area, particularly if there are younger families who may have children. 
  • Determine the size of the patient pool near the hospital.  
  • Assess your competition and determine if there is enough work to go around.  
  • Contact the local chamber of commerce to learn more about the town, including any new schools, housing developments or hospitals that are planned.  
  • Look at the demographics of the obstetrician pool, since this will impact the number of newborns—potential new patients—in the area. 
  • Learn about the referral and admitting patterns in the area and develop relationships with appropriate clinicians.  
  • Consider practicing in a rural area, which may provide an opportunity to treat infants who don’t have other options for care. 

Determining the right location to practice is an important decision, and there are many factors to consider. Ultimately, you want a practice location that enables you to do your best work while also providing opportunities to feel energized and refreshed outside of work.

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