Several factors go into deciding where to practice.
Of course, it also simply means: “Where will I be happiest to live and practice?” It’s an obvious question to ask. Answering it, though – and feeling confident in that answer – takes contemplation, research, and discussions with those close to you.
Here are five questions to ask as you evaluate where you’d like to live and practice:
- What amenities and lifestyle most appeal to me?
As important as it is to find an opportunity where you enjoy practicing medicine, you also need to savor your downtime. Think about what you like to do when you’re not on call and what type of environment you’re most comfortable and most likely to find those conveniences.
Do you prefer the big-city bustle or a more serene suburban or rural setting? If you like large metro areas, are you OK with a lengthy commute or do you want public transportation options? Are you a foodie eager to find a thriving restaurant scene and farmers markets? Do you enjoy escaping to the outdoors to recharge between shifts?
Taking the time to really think about what you want in a residence can help you identify which locations you might enjoy long term.
- What’s the cost of living?
Enjoying your favorite activities requires having the budget for them. As part of your evaluation process – and to preview for potential contract and compensation negotiations – review pay ranges for a given specialty and area.
Then, look for sites that help you estimate what to expect to pay for housing, utilities, transportation, groceries and taxes. Also be sure to account for expenses like student loans and car payments.
- How will the move affect family?
Moving with family members means considering their interests in your evaluation process. Will a location have career and activity options for your spouse? Do the public schools meet your expectations? If not, will there be room in your budget to pay for private school? And do the schools or community offer the extracurricular activities they enjoy most?
Also consider how the move impacts your extended family. Do you prefer to live in the same city as them or within driving distance, or are you OK with flying for an occasional visit?
- How safe is it?
Sites like AreaVibes and NeighborhoodScout provide a glimpse into neighborhoods based on school and crime data. Following local news sources is also a great way to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to live somewhere.
- What are my future career plans?
Keep in mind where you decide to live and practice today can impact your life and career tomorrow. Are you looking for an opportunity where you can remain and grow indefinitely, or do you see this as the next step in a planned career path that will likely lead you elsewhere eventually? If the practice winds up being a poor fit, are there additional opportunities in the area or would you have to uproot and relocate again to find a new practice?
Long-term planning is rarely easy, but making it part of your evaluation process can provide a useful complement to the other factors that will go into making the decision.
How to compare your options
Once you’ve researched potential destinations, it’s helpful to have your findings in a somewhat quantifiable form. One option may be to create a simple scorecard in a spreadsheet. This will allow you to rate potential destinations based on your desired parameters, easily compare destinations and see how they measure up to each other.
To create your scorecard:
- List out your desired parameters in a column.
- Assign each factor a maximum possible score. (For example, if cost of living is your most important factor, it might allow for a range of 1-10, while secondary parameters might be a range of 1-5.)
- Across the top of your spreadsheet, assign each of your possible destinations to a column.
- Rate each destination for each parameter using the information you gathered during your research.
- Tally up the total score for each destination and compare.