What to know before moving for a health care job

By | December 22, 2018

This article is sponsored by Careers by KevinMD.com.

How satisfied are you in your current health care position? According to the Conference Board, a global, independent business membership and research organization, only 51 percent of employees report overall satisfaction with their current job. In the survey, conducted earlier this year, respondents reported that the job factors with the highest satisfaction were the people at work, commute to work, interest in work and physical environment. Job factors yielding the greatest disappointment included workload, education/job training programs, performance review process, bonus plan, and promotion policy.

Fortunately, with the current low unemployment rate in the health care industry (a mere 2.6 percent in October compared to 3.7 percent across all industries), you probably don’t have to stay in a job that brings you more angst than joy. And with plenty of opportunities to be had at independent practices, medical centers, hospitals and health care systems across the county (604,000 new hires were made in August alone), you may even find yourself drawn to an entirely new geographic location.

“The top reason nurse practitioners I work with want to relocate is to be close to family,” says Renee Dahring, MSN, CNP, and founder of NP Career Coach. “Experienced NPs sometimes want to move to be closer to aging parents. On the other end of the spectrum, new graduates might move to be back with their family if they didn’t go to school nearby.”

Many physicians are open to relocation as well. “At least half of the physicians I’ve coached have considered relation,” says Jacqueline Huntly MD, MPH and certified physician development coach.

Huntly notes many have been mid-career and looking for a way to advance. Others are nearing retirement and thinking about a move to wherever they want to spend their golden years. “I’ve even heard that, depending on the specialty, the malpractice environment can be a factor that prompts a relocation,” she adds.

William Brady, physician, health economist, and coach, agrees that opportunities for advancement and the desire to be near family are common reasons professionals consider relocating for new health care positions. “Sometimes they might also want to live in a city more conducive to their lifestyle,” he says.

Whatever your purpose for pulling up roots, there are a few factors you should spend some time considering first.

Spouse and family happiness

“The first thing to do is to include your spouse in the decision,” Brady urges. “Talk to your partner to make sure they’re on board. There have been plenty of examples in which a family moves to another state and then the spouse or partner realizes they don’t like it there. That can create problems for the whole family.”

Huntly agrees that the feelings of spouses and children need to be taken into account. “You should look at employment opportunities in the area for your spouse as well,” she says. “If your spouse is in a position that they enjoy, and you’re moving someplace where there aren’t similar opportunities, that can obviously become an issue.”

“If you have children in school, you’re going to want to look at your education options,” Huntly continues. “Keep in mind that it’s not all about your new job. Is this a place where your family can settle and be happy?”

While your real estate agent and new employer may be good resources for this type information, you should do some research online as well. Websites to help you evaluate local schools include greatschools.org and schooldigger.com.

Cost of living and local culture

Cost of living can vary greatly between states and even between cities within a single state, with everything from rent to gasoline to groceries and household essentials costing more (or less) than you’re used to. Bankrate offers a handy cost of living calculator to help you compare the cost of living between any two locations.

“You might think you’re going to get this great salary increase, but you don’t realize what housing costs there,” Dahring says. “That can really change the value of your offer.”

You’ll need to factor in relocation costs as well. In 2014, the American Moving and Storage Association estimated the average cost of a move between states at $ 5,630. Another organization, Worldwide ERC, estimates the average cost of a move within the U.S. is $ 12,459. And if you have to put some of your belongings in storage in the process, you can add between $ 95 to $ 155 a month to those expenses.

Of course, it’s not all about dollars and cents. A city’s culture and local amenities also matter.

“It makes sense to spend some time in a new city before you make a big decision like moving there,” Brady cautions. “I’ve had a few physicians who have moved from the upper northeast coast of the United States to the southwest and then found they didn’t care for the southwestern culture. Eventually, they left. It was very expensive for the family as well as the organization.”

Organizational culture and other job details

New pastures often look greener, but experts agree that you shouldn’t let that blind you to important details like organizational culture, advancement opportunities and the day-to-day responsibilities of the new position.

“If you’re moving because you’re dissatisfied with your current job, make sure you really assess the new position thoroughly,” says Huntly. “Talk to other people who work there and look at the culture of the organization. You want to have a really good picture of the position.”

“Thoroughly investigate your reasons for changing organizations,” says Brady. “One of the primary reasons physicians are referred to me is because they don’t understand the organizational culture of their company.”

He notes that while defining a health care organization’s culture can be difficult, you can learn a lot by asking one simple question. “Ask, ‘How are decisions really made in this organization?’” he says. “You may find that the CEO just tells everyone what to do. Or you may find that everybody gets to give their input before the group decides what’s best. Most doctors really like that. They aren’t usually the type that appreciates organizations that are autocratic.”

Licensing requirements

Whether you’re a physician, surgeon, physician assistant or NP, you’ll need to consider licensing requirements and processing times before you make the decision to relocate as well.

According to the American Medical Association, physicians should plan to wait at least 60 days between completing a license application and receiving their license. You can also check out a comprehensive list of medical licensing authorities, licensing fees and processing times here and a list of CME state requirements here.

“Processing times can vary greatly between states,” says Dahring. “Some move quickly, and you can have your NP license in a couple of weeks, while others can take three months or more. I know one particular state that wants NPs to have 40 hours of pharmacotherapeutics continuing education within the last three years.”

Unlike physicians and PAs, Dahring notes that NPs need to factor a state’s practice laws into their decision as well. “There are 22 states now where NPs have full practice authority,” she says. “It’s ultimately the clinician’s responsibility to know those laws, the requirements, and what you can and can’t do. That’s worth studying if you don’t want any surprises.”

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