I am trying to recall an idiom or phrase that would describe a network of colleagues or peers, specifically a group of people who all mutually benefit from one another.

Is there an idiomatic expression that describes, for example, a group of specialists (doctors) who refer patients to one another?

10 Answers 10


I think we tend to use different words for this concept, depending on context.

For example: gang, crew, set, inner circle, community, clique, club, horde, body, corps, assembly, association, alliance, confederacy, etc. all refer to variations of the idea of "a network of colleagues or peers, specifically a group of people who all mutually benefit from one another" and they tend to get used in certain contexts. We don't talk about a "club of criminals" we call them "a gang of criminals".


An inner circle may suggest the idea you are describing:

a small, intimate, and often influential group of people.

The Free Dictionary


This may be a bit formal and may have some legal ramifications but here is the definition for "Consortium":

From Merriam-Webster Online:

a group of people, companies, etc., that agree to work together

MWO also has another, more complete definition that seems to better describe your example:

1: an agreement, combination, or group (as of companies) formed to undertake an enterprise beyond the resources of any one member


Old boys, specifically old boy network.


A clique or coterie could be used, but I think they are both pejorative.

  • 2
    They are indeed. Hey, when airlines do something similar they call it an "alliance", e.g. Star.
    – David Pugh
    May 13, 2015 at 17:13
  • @DavidPugh, alliance is another good one and is one of the synonyms for my "consortium". May 13, 2015 at 17:42
  • @DavidPugh I think alliance most closely fits the bill.
    – Quillmondo
    May 13, 2015 at 22:59

Collaborators could be appropriate, particularly given your example.

To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort.

Also, as already mentioned, consortium is often used in a medical context.

A cooperative arrangement among groups or institutions.


cro·ny plural noun: cronies a close friend or companion. "he went gambling with his cronies"


group practice


  1. Also called group medicine. the practice of medicine by an association of health professionals who work together, usu. in one suite of offices.
  2. any similar practice by an association of professional persons.
  3. a system in which legal services are provided by a corporation retaining a number of lawyers.
    TheFreeDictionary: Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary. (2010).

On the benefits of group practice

Strength in Numbers: Advantages of Group Practice by Corporate Relations and Business Strategy Staff

Group practices continue to form as an effective strategy for meeting the evolving demands of an increasingly complex health care market. A 2006 member survey by the APA Practice Organization found that approximately one-third of full-time private practitioners are affiliated with a group.

Though group practices may differ in legal structure, their members generally share facilities, personnel and earnings. The creation of a group psychology practice can be an effective way to offer an integrated menu of psychological services in a health services marketplace that values "one-stop shopping." Multidisciplinary groups that also include other health-related services may be even better positioned to meet this marketplace demand.
Practice Central

A more general term which doesn't entail a business arrangement is

professional affiliation

A professional affiliation is an organization or group a person belongs to based on involvement in a particular profession. A nurse could become a member of the American Nurses Association, for instance. Affiliations range from paid membership to active involvement in organization activities or leadership roles.
Ask.com business-finance professional-affiliations


The word "college" literally means "a group of colleagues". See the etymology given at etymonline.com.

Nowadays, of course, this term is predominantly used to mean specifically "an institute of higher education". However, it is still used in the original sense in the names of organizations such as "The American College of Surgeons", which is not a medical school.


If you're thinking specifically of doctors, I can offer you a patient's perspective on their language.

In thinking back to some recent eye treatment, and how the various practitioners referred to each other, there was definitely something of a range, i.e.

  • another doctor in the same large practice would be a colleague, or spoken of as a specialist, e.g. "before you leave, book an appointment with one of our opthalmologists".
  • a doctor with an independent practice, but well known, would be spoken of as a referral, e.g. "one of the people up front can give you some referrals".
  • a doctor outside the group would simply be a name, e.g. "I'm sure we can find you some names."

In my experience with U.S. doctors, they are careful to avoid "endorsing" or "recommending" a fellow practitioner, unless they are linked in some way, e.g. through common employment at a large clinic. It's related to their concept of liability and the possibility of being sued by a patient or harassed by an insurance company.

In larger organizations like the Summit Medical Group, what you describe would probably be called a service team.

For something looser, such as doctors linked by common membership in a hospital billing system, you could maybe use affiliates, or clinical affiliates as a general term. However, the terminology is increasingly set by corporate medicine, such as RWJBarnabas.

It seemed to me that the doctors themselves didn't like this very much, which might affect how you use the corporate lexicon in what you are writing.

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