Tips for building your private practice

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Everyone that starts private practice asks themselves the same question – how do I get private work? 

Like any business, it’s always a challenge to build a customer base – in anaesthetic private practice, your direct customers are essentially the surgeons and other proceduralists that you’ll work with. Fortunately, in this industry, there’s a good balance of supply and demand, so it doesn’t take too long to get busy. 

So how do we get started? Here’s five tips that is sure to help you on your way. 

1. Get a public appointment.

Besides being a source of income, public hospitals are a great way to network. As a consultant, showing that you are capable, efficient and good fun to work with is a sure-fire way to get people talking positively about you. Don’t be shy either – if you think you would like to work with a particular surgeon in private practice, let them know. Business cards can often be helpful as the surgeon can pass them on to their administrative teams. Plenty of my own business cards have sat at the bottom of a surgeon’s bag only for me to receive a call out of the blue. 

2. Be prepared to do anything

They say that “beggars can’t be choosers”. Being asked to help out with a single case, or a list for a surgical specialty you don’t particularly enjoy, may not be what you had in mind in private practice, but this is an invaluable opportunity to network – not just with the surgeon, but with all the other people you’ll meet along the way. Having surgeons, nursing staff and administrators see you around in private theatres will increase your profile and you’ll find requests from assistance from unexpected places before you know it. 

For a surgeon you enjoy working with, a single case might turn into an ad hoc list, which then turns into a regular list. Or the surgeon might talk to one of his colleagues who’s looking for a good anaesthetist. Or the theatre in charge nurse might notice that you’re really helpful with patients and mention you in passing to a surgeon looking for help… opportunities to network are invaluable to your future practice. 

Some private hospitals have “on-call” anaesthetists, usually for obstetrics or after-hours emergencies. This is another great way to meet new surgeons and build your reputation. 

3. Never forget you are the only product you sell

There’s a really important concept you should always keep at the forefront of your mind – you need to remember that what you are effectively doing is running a small business, and the only product is yourself. This means that you need to deliver a good product to all your “stakeholders” – all the people you interact with – so you can build a reputation that has people ringing you for help all the time. Being friendly and approachable will help build your reputation – being the opposite will make building your practice near impossible. 

Consider all the steps that lead to a successful anaesthetic episode – from when the patient books to when they have achieved a full recovery. This includes introducing yourself prior to surgery, informed financial consent, your fees, your face-to-face interactions with the patients, and checking in with them post-op. It is unusual that you’ll receive feedback directly – good or bad – rather, patients will discuss with their surgeon, which may influence how much – or even if – they use your services again.  

4. Listcover or messaging groups

Apps like ListCover help connect surgeons and anaesthetists and can provide golden opportunities. If you put your hand up for a list with a surgeon you’ve not worked with before, follow it up with a call to their secretary and introduce yourself and your skill set.  

Additionally, there are local chat groups on WhatsApp and Signal for anaesthetists looking for cover. Ask your private colleagues how they find cover which should point you in the right direction. 

5. Be active

Getting your name out there is one of the most important aspects, so look for opportunities to meet and greet. Many private hospitals have meetings and education sessions you can attend. Considering presenting cases or a topic at these meetings.  

If you have a specific field of interest, let’s say ENT, then introducing yourself via a letter to the ENT practices nearby won’t hurt. Highlight your skills and experience and finish by encouraging the practice to contact you should they need assistance. 

In summary, starting in private practice is a game of patience and building your presence. Taking a few simple steps can make a big difference. Keep in mind that over time, your practice will refine towards the case mix you like to do, so try not to stress about what work you are initially doing. 

Solo Practice Management can assist you build your practice by being your administrative partner – providing a positive experience to you patients so that they speak positively about you to your surgeon, while helping you do less admin and more of what you want. For more information, give us a call or see our website at