One of the biggest decisions you will have to make when choosing your next career step as an Audiology Graduate is “where do I want my first Audiology job to be? A chain or an independent practice?”
Although some will look to the hospitals or a place to study back at university, the majority of audiology students will work in a retail-based environment be it in the chains or the independents.
How do you know what is right in your new Audiologist job, chain or independent practice?
Some students like the idea of smaller and community-based businesses as opposed to multinational chains. That said, the chains also have many perks for Audiologists. There are benefits to consider on both sides.
Some independent practices may have practice-policies that make them feel like a multiple chain, whereas some multiples may have policies that make them feel more like an independent. The main thing to do is to do your research on the practice before applying for the role.
Things to consider when looking for a graduate Audiologist job – chain or independent practice?
1. Team Size
Generally speaking, the independents tend to be a single practice with a small and close-knit team and the multiple has multiple stores with (on average) slightly larger teams. This can make an enormous difference on how the practice is run – with larger teams having more people to specialise in specific roles or hands available to answer the phone or deal with patient queries. Smaller teams tend to have a broader range of skills that includes you as the audiologist, who may be required to help out on non-clinical roles.
2. Working environment
Usually independents will offer longer testing times and a more clinical approach to their patient care. They will also tend to offer specialist treatments and services as this is how they can differentiate themselves from their bigger competition. Independents can offer freedom and flexibility in terms of the products they sell; multiples usually have ‘group’ agreements which streamline their product offerings.
Many patients do like to see the same practitioner, just like we generally like to see the same patients in order to provide good continuity of care. In independent practices, you are often the lone Audiologist, so more often than not; you will be able to keep the continuity. In larger chains, where staff turnover may be high and you’ll be working with several other Audiologists, patients often will be seen by the next available appointment (unless requested/offered otherwise), which may make continuation of care more difficult.
Smaller practices generally may provide less in terms of salary than their multiple counterparts, however, this is not set in stone and you may find variations in this depending on demand, responsibilities expected to undertake and location. You are more likely to have corporate perks with a chain, but many independent practices offer their employees perks of their own.
5. Targets and Conversion Rates
It is common for newly qualified Audiologists to worry about being both the clinician and the salesman. The duality of the role does slowly come into effect, but initially it can be a source of pressure. The majority of multiples are very sales focused and will have teams number-crunching your stores’ figures and will be keen on conversions. Independents still require sales to survive, but few tend to provide a target. Some people perform best when there is no pressure of a target whereas others love to have the challenge of a number to hit.
6. Other Locations and relocating
The multiples have many other stores (often nationwide) which may open the chance for a location move later in your career. This will allow you to meet other employees and network, making peer support somewhat easier. Independent (by definition) means there is a stand-alone location, meaning you’ll be based at one location for the duration of your employment. This works for some, but others may find the option to move between different towns and cities appealing.
Many multiples hold their own conferences and training events to ensure you reach your thresholds, but this is not feasible in an independent role. That said, many independents can arrange in-house training events. Depending on how you like to learn, this may affect your future ideal placement.
8. Career Development
Long term, the prospect of a partnership position or ownership of a practice is higher if you chose to work in an independent practice. Independent businesses tent to need a succession plan and will look internally whereas in a multi-site operation you’re most likely to peak in a senior management role. Something to consider when thinking about your long term career aspirations.
Here at Prospect Health we have a huge variety of clients looking for newly qualified Audiologists to fill their jobs and we will happily chat through the variances of working for the different types of clients we work with.