Clinicians Business Tip: Education for the Rest of Us

Nurse Practitioner Business Owner; Barbara C. PhillipsAs I travel around and speak at various conferences, some NPs tell me they are not interested in starting a practice. I always tell them, that’s good as owning a practice  is not meant for everyone. However, I am dismayed when they also tell me they don’t need to know about business.

This can be no further from the truth. Indeed, NPs and PAs who are not businesses must be familiar with business, laws and it’s effect on their practice and their employment status. I have been saying for quite some time now: “It you generate revenue, whether for yourself or for someone else, you are a business.” There are several advantages that the clinicians with some basic business information will have other other clinicians, and even perhaps their employer:

1. Negotiation skills: Even the most modest skills allows you to negotiate for yourself when it comes to employment and benefits,  securing a collaborative physician, working with insurance companies, and most importantly, improve your work with patients.

2.  Contracts: a basic understanding of contracts is key for any professional. NPs & PAs need to understand just what is in that contract, what they should be asking for and what things to avoid. Contracts are not just for employment or independent contractors. They are also important for collaborating physicians, folks you may hire, services you may make use of, and of course will have a multitude uses in your personal life.

3. Revenue Cycles: Understanding how you, the provider generates revenue, and what goes into getting paid is key for anyone who hires you, and ultimately is critical to your bottom line.  Seeing a patient, doing the work, documenting the visit and submitting the claim does not necessarily mean that visit will be paid. Clinicians need to understand the basic ins and outs of the revenue cycle.

4. Production: In todays world, and for the foreseeable future, when we see a patient we generate revenue. That means we as clinicians, must be mindful of how many patients we see each time we are in our work environments.  If we don’t see enough, we don’t generate enough money to earn our keep.

5. Financial Statements: I loved how Nancy Dirrubbo, FNP-BC, FAANP presented her topic at the AANP conference. She presented the idea of being a business this way.  We have money coming in and going out. She showed how each of us can easily create our own financial statements. Once you understand this, it also will give you a greater understanding for how different aspects of running a practice affect you the employee, but also you the business/employer.

6. Healthcare is a business: Make no bones about it, healthcare is a business. And rightly so. Healthcare cannot operate for free. It is essential for revenue to be generated in order to provide the services. While some feel that healthcare should be free, I’m here to tell you, there is no such thing. Someone, somewhere is footing the bill.

This is a short list of healthcare business topics I see are important (believe me…there’s more!). Being able to talk “business” and “finances” and having a greater understanding of business basics puts all clinicians on better and more professional footing. It does not hinder or take away from healthcare or patient care and indeed it can positively affect you ability to give the best care you can.

I’d love for you to share your thoughts below.


Barbara C. Phillips, NP, FAANP is a professional speaker, author, clinician and business owner who provides business education, resources and support to Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants and other Advance Practice Clinicians — both for the employed and self-employed clinician. Additional information about Ms. Phillips is available at

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  1. I am a new FNP. I eventually want to start my own practice. I currently reside in the state of Hawaii. We now have independent practice. Do you advise a MBA before starting your own practice?

  2. Congratulations on becoming an FNP!

    Do you need an MBA to start your own practice? No. In many cases, depending on the MBA program, it will not help you run and start a practice. Most MBA’s are geared toward corporate work. There are MBA’s specific for healthcare and entrepreneurial endeavors that may be helpful. However, most NPs, PAs and physicians who own and run their practice, do not have MBAs.

  3. I am a new NP whose goal is to start her own practice, It will be a year this September that I started practicing and i have already started on my plan of initiating my own practice. I was wondering if this idea is too soon in my career or what is your expert opinion… Thank you

  4. Hi Busola,

    Congratulations on being in practice a year! The first year is often the hardest.

    To answer your question – it depends! Everyone is an individual, I don’t know your level of experience prior to becoming an NP, nor do I know the experiences and your level of clinical excellence since becoming an NP.

    I generally recommend you develop solid clinical skills prior to starting a business. There is a whole new set of skills and knowledge needed to run a business – and you don’t want to be still learning to be an NP while starting a practice.

    Take this time to pay attention to what is going on around you regarding practice, reimbursements, changing healthcare arena, business concepts as well as perfecting your clinical skills. Consider carefully what you want to do, where and how. Start to draw up some plans and tweak them as you go.
    Before you know it…you’ll be ready!

    Best wishes to you!

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