Choosing a practice manager

Linda McSweeny
Med J Aust
Published online: 21 November 2011

A practice manager can make or break a medical practice

Formulating the job description
when advertising for a practice
manager isn’t a simple affair,
because, in 2011, there’s a lot they need
to know.
“The complexities of running a
medical practice are significant”, says
Brett McPherson, the president of
the Australian Association of Practice
Managers (AAPM), who is the go-to
person for the 2000 practice managers
he represents.
Mr McPherson says that while
doctors are the qualified experts in
practising medicine, practice managers
are the experts in managing medical
“General practice is a business;
it’s a small to medium business
enterprise now and, as such, it requires
professional management.”
Mr McPherson says an effective
practice manager will be a leader who
develops the practice, facilitates change,
communicates well and handles
thorny issues with staff. They should
understand business, basic finance and
principles of management.
“The position exists to support
and work in consultation with the
practice principals in ensuring that the
business management of the practice is
professional and allows all employees to
achieve the business vision, values and
objectives”, he says.
When doctors are deciding who to
employ as a practice manager, and
how much to pay them, there are many
different factors to consider, including
the size, type and location of the
He says salaries start at $40 per hour,
while some corporate practice managers
will expect to be paid six figures (see
box, left).

Although practice managers need
excellent people skills to manage
staff, most have very little face-to-face
contact with patients.
“Receptionists are doing all the front-
of-house work. The managers are really
doing the behind-the-scenes running of
the practice”, says Mr McPherson.
Practice managers are responsible
for financial management, governance
and organisation, business and
clinic operations, risk management,
IT management, human resources
management, and marketing and
“These days, as practitioners realise
the value of their practice managers, a
lot of the time it’s the practice manager
that can be the practice’s competitive
edge”, Mr McPherson says.
“Doctors want to walk in and work in

a well-run practice. They don’t want to
be worrying about if their Medicare is
being paid or if the equipment is right or
the IT is working. It just all happens —
that’s what they want.”

Implementing legislation
Mr McPherson says that the government
has recognised that practice managers
are “agents of change” when it comes to
implementing new systems or legislative
“There are a lot of things like
Medicare Locals, bulk-billing,
electronic health ... practice mangers
play a significant role in the practical
implementation and success of
Australia’s health reform”, he says.
Mrs Elizabeth Stanick, practice
manager for The Hobart Anaesthetic
Group, agrees that it’s imperative for a
manager to maintain knowledge of, and
comply with, changes in legislation.
Mrs Stanick says practice managers
also need to keep in tune with political
and economic changes, be aware of the
contractual obligations of the practice
and have clear financial reporting skills.
The practice Mrs Stanick manages is
large, with 29 anaesthetists and 11 staff.
The group provides anaesthetic services
to about 95 proceduralists at four private
hospitals in Hobart.
Although her work is challenging
and often complex, Mrs Stanick says
there are more highs than lows, and she
enjoys the constant learning which is
required to keep abreast of changes in
the health system.
Varied role
Mrs Stanick trained as a nurse in
Adelaide before moving into banking.
She says practice management allows
her to combine her financial and
administrative skills with her medical
“A practice manager should be able
to interact with and influence a range
of contacts at all levels, internal and
external to the practice”, says Mrs
Stanick, who received a meritorious
award for her services to the AAPM,
which recognises a 20-year involvement.
“It gives the most wonderful scope
to use a multitude of management

  • Linda McSweeny



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