Early Career

Establishing an advanced endoscopy practice: Tips for trainees and early faculty


Establishing an advanced endoscopy practice can appear challenging and overwhelming. It is often the culmination of more than a decade of education and training for advanced endoscopists and is usually their first foray into employment. Taking a practical, step-wise approach to establish a practice can optimize the chances of a successful transition, all while creating a rewarding opportunity to provide a population with necessary services, which, more than likely, were not previously being offered at your institution or in your region.

Tip 1: Understand the current landscape

When joining a hospital-employed or private practice, it is important for the advanced endoscopist to gauge the current landscape of the job, beginning with gaining an understanding of the current services provided by your gastroenterology colleagues. This includes knowing the types of advanced endoscopy services previously provided, especially if you have partners or colleagues who perform these procedures, and their prior referral patterns, either within or outside their respective group. Also, it is important to understand the services that are provided locally at other institutions. This will allow you to develop a niche of the types of services you can provide that are not available in the current practice set-up.

Tip 2: Connect with peers, interspecialty collaborators, and referring physicians

It is important that you connect with your GI colleagues once you start a new job. This can differ in ease depending on the size of your group. For example, in a small group, it may be easier to familiarize yourself with your colleagues through regular interactions. If you are a part of a larger practice, however, it is necessary to be more proactive and set up introductory meetings/sessions. These interactions provide a great opportunity to share your goals and start building a relationship.

Dr. A. Samad Soudagar, gastroenterologist at Northwestern Medical Group, Lake Forest, Ill.

Dr. A. Samad Soudagar

Efforts also should be made to reach out to primary care, hematology/oncology, surgical/radiation oncology, general surgery, and interventional radiology physicians, as these are the specialists with whom an advanced endoscopist typically has the most interaction. The relationship with these colleagues is bidirectional, as the majority of our patients need multidisciplinary decision-making and care. For example, the first time you speak to the colorectal surgeon at your institution should not be in the middle of a complication. The purpose of these introductions should not be solely to inform them of the services you are offering but to start developing a relationship in a true sense, because eventually those relationships will transform into excellent patient care.

Tip 3: Communication

Communication is a key principle in building a practice. Referring physicians often entrust you with managing a part of their patient’s medical problems. Patient/procedure outcomes should be relayed promptly to referring physicians, as this not only helps build the trust of the referring physician, but also enhances the patient’s trust in the health system, knowing that all physicians are communicating with the common goal of improving the patient’s disease course.

Communication with the referring physician is important not only after a procedure but also before it. Know that a consult is an “ask for help.” For example, even if you are not the correct specialist for a referral (for example, an inflammatory bowel disease patient was sent to an advanced endoscopist), it is good practice to take ownership of the patient and forward that person to the appropriate colleague.

Tip 4: Build a local reputation

Building upon this, it is also important to connect with other GI groups in the community, regardless of whether they have their own affiliated advanced endoscopists. This helps determine the advanced endoscopy services being offered regionally, which will further allow an understanding of the unmet needs of the region. In addition, building a relationship with local advanced endoscopists in the region can help establish a collaborative relationship going forward, rather than a contentious/competitive dynamic.

Tip 5: Advance your skills

As advanced endoscopy fellows are aware, completing an advanced endoscopy fellowship allows for building a strong foundation of skills, which will continue to refine and grow as you advance in your career.

Dr. Mohammad Bilal, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, and advanced endoscopist and gastroenterologist at Minneapolis VA Medical Center

Dr. Mohammad Bilal

Depending on your skill-set and training, the first year should focus on developing and establishing “your style” (since the training is tailored to follow the practice patterns of your mentors). The first few months are good to focus on refining endoscopic ultrasound, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, endoscopic mucosal resection, and luminal stenting techniques. As you start to build a reputation of being “safe, thoughtful, and skilled” and depending on your interests and goals, continued engagement in the advanced endoscopy community to understand new technologies/procedures is helpful. It is important to remember that new skills and procedures can be introduced in your practice, but this should be done in a timely and patient manner. You should appropriately educate and train yourself for such procedures through educational conferences/courses, shadowing and routine engagement with mentors, and collaboration with industry partners.

Tip 6: Team building

From a procedural standpoint, certain staff members should be recognized to be part of or lead an “advanced endoscopy team,” with a goal of dedicated exposure to a high volume of complex procedures. This builds camaraderie and trust within the team of advanced endoscopy nurses and technicians going forward, which is crucial to introducing and building a high-complexity procedural service. This is also an excellent opportunity to partner with our industry colleagues to ensure that they can train your team on the use of novel devices.

Tip 7: Offering new services to your patients

Advanced endoscopy is a rapidly evolving specialty, and new procedures, technology, and devices are allowing us to provide minimally invasive options to our patients. It is important that prior to introducing new services and programs, your hospital/practice administration should be informed about any such plans. Also, all potential collaborating services (surgery, interventional radiology, etc.) should be part of the decision-making to ensure patients receive the best possible multidisciplinary care.


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