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Practical Career Advice for Mental Health Clinicians

February 08, 2019
Napoleon B. Higgins Jr., MD

Fresh out of residency, psychiatrist Napoleon B. Higgins Jr., MD, was eager to jump-start his career. Then reality hit.

“I noticed that I was not able to find much that fit me and my personal desires for a career,” Dr. Higgins reflected. “I had decided on private practice, but quickly saw how my 13 years [of] post-high school education had grossly left out what to do once you graduate.”

Despite those challenges, Dr. Higgins’ story eventually took a positive turn. Tapping his mother to act as office manager, he launched a private practice in Houston, Texas. In less than a decade, Bay Pointe Behavioral Health Service grew into one of the largest group practices in the city.

Dr. Higgins will share insight gleaned through his business experience during his session at Elevate by Psych Congress, taking place in Boston, Massachusetts, March 8-10, 2019. The author of the book Transition 2 Practice: 21 Things Every Doctor Must Know in Contract Negotiations and the Job Search, Dr. Higgins will focus on how fellow mental health clinicians can find personal success in their careers, too.

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First step? Figure out what you want out of life.

“Too often we are trained to give our all to our profession and to think of our own individual interest as self-serving,” he said. “My thought is that happy doctors who are satisfied with themselves and their work make for better practicing clinicians. This leads to better patient care.”

Dr. Higgins will discuss the necessity of self-introspection when planning future career moves and advancements. Knowing yourself, he said, is paramount to positive job interviews, negotiations, and career-related endeavors.

“Being objective about yourself can be very difficult if you haven't done your own introspection,” said Dr. Higgins, who advocates for building a career around a life, rather than the other way around.

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“Doctors are taught to believe they are all-knowledgeable due to our training and academic prowess. This causes us to believe that our mental wit then translates into other life and career situations. Often, that is the furthest thing from the truth. When it comes to careers, we are often the last to know and understand.” 

Essential insight for assessing career opportunities includes your monetary worth to a practice.

“Every administrator knows what a doctor financially brings in, but the doctors themselves do not know,” he said. “We will discuss the value in negotiating your worth and how this is a win for both employers and employees.”

With some solid preparation, clinicians can establish firm footing for their next professional steps, Dr. Higgins believes, while ensuring they are staying on the career path they want.

—Jolynn Tumolo

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