PracticeLink Magazine

FALL 2014

The career development quarterly for physicians of all specialties, PracticeLink Magazine provides readers with feature articles, compensation stats, helpful job search tips—as well as recruitment ads from organizations across the U.S.

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Page 61 of 103

numbers may rest in patterns physicians developed during medi- cal training. Doctors are taught to make swift decisions. "If I'm in the ER with a serious injury, I don't want my doc taking too long to decide on my treatment," explains Hursh, who points out that physi- cians' ability for quick thinking serves them well in the practice of medicine but can be a serious downfall in contract negotiations. "You may think it impresses your new employer when you demonstrate an ability for a snap decision on a contract. However, it rarely works to your advantage." Carl Price, M.D., a plas- tic surgeon with The Center for Plastic Surgery in Springfeld, Missouri, adds his take on Hursh's comment: "There may be some kernels of truth to that; I think that physicians in general tend to be a bit naïve and not very business savvy," he says. "Some young physi- cians can get themselves into bad situations." Gary D. Wimsett, Jr., of Gainesville, Florida, who wrote the forward for Maria K. Todd's book The Physician Employ- ment Contract Handbook: A Guide to Structuring Equi- table Arrangements, tells readers, "The practice of medicine and the business of practice are two distinct disciplines. Mastery of the former and neglect of the latter nearly guarantee an unhappy and unfulflling professional life in medicine." To negotiate or not to negotiate? In a list of the most important fnancial decisions you will ever have to make, agreeing to an employment contract, especially your frst one, ranks near the top. The contract foundation upon which you practice can be strong and equitable—or one-sided, weak and create problems down the road. As New York Internist Marina Gafanov- ich, M.D., says, "A doctor's license is a very vulnerable asset when it comes to improper contracting." The practice of medi- cine can quickly turn sour when working under an unfavorable contract, and your many years of medical training may seem fnan- cially wasteful if a bad contract pushes you away from the feld of medicine. To prevent that from happen- ing, author Maria K. Todd advises physicians to understand that the balance in the offer is typically angled to one side. In her book, she states, "the agreement's 'default' provisions will almost certainly favor the employer, and the general tenor of the agreement will be tilted in the employer's favor in almost every instance." Gafanovich, who has been in practice for the past 15 years, says virtually all doctors coming into their practice have negotiated their contracts. On the other hand, William Scott Huie, M.D., an anesthesiolo- gist with North Houston Anesthe- siologists, P.A., and chief of staff at Conroe Regional Medical Center, says that he has had only one or two out of 20-plus doctors ever try to negotiate. "That is mostly due to the fact that we have a very stable pay scale for the frst two years. Once we explain the structure, they drop it." However, Huie goes on to say he wouldn't be offended if a potential hire did try to negotiate. "I have had doctors request more vacation or extra pay for having a fellowship, but I was never offended. And they were not offended when I told them 'no.'" Huie says that he would not be interested in negotiating a contract with anyone's attorney. But he does feel an attorney review of the docu- ment is wise. "For the protection of the new employee, I think it is very reasonable to have an attorney look over the contract. Our group is happy to discuss anything in the contract, and if something is not pertinent, we can omit and initial." As a new physician fresh out of residency, Morris says she inter- viewed with a group practice in another state. Initially she negoti- ated the contract herself, but when it hit an impasse, she called upon her attorney to take over. In the end, the attorney advised that she walk, because it was a poorly written contract. "The negotia- tions basically brought out some of the underlying problems with the Confident Negotiations Continued from previous page 62 | FALL 2014 Continued on page 64

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