There’s a lot for new physicians to understand when they are considering new employment opportunities.
If you’re nearing a contract review or compensation negotiation, take the time to understand the following keys to success.
Negotiating your contract and compensation are two of the more difficult areas to address when interviewing for a job. But before broaching those two topics, you must first make sure you find the right practice or position based on your personality, objectives and family needs. Yes, compensation is an important piece of that. However, first making sure the organization and community are good fits for you and your family will help the contract and compensation negotiations be much easier. Both you and the employer will be willing to give and take if they’re confident in a long-term arrangement.
As you schedule interviews, you can ask your in-house recruiter about common employment contract terms and negotiable points. In-house recruiters are employed by the hospital, clinic or practice. You can also ask how compensation is handled in the contract and within the particular location or area you will be working. Organizations write contracts to cover many different physicians and specialties; therefore, there are areas in the contract that will not be negotiable. Other sections, such as those covering signing bonuses, loan repayments and moving expenses may be topics for discussion.
It is important to ask the right questions to understand how you will be paid. Some things to consider: Is the position with a teaching facility with a salary and incentives? Is it a private practice or employed position that uses wRVUs (Work Relative Value Units) to determine compensation based on work performed and appropriate billing practices?
Most income packages offered to new physicians are determined by regional market factors and compensation surveys conducted by organizations such as MGMA. Salaried positions with incentives are usually easy to understand. However, many practices compensate their physicians using a wRVU model. This compensation is based on work units performed rather than the number of patients seen. Ensure you understand how you will be paid for what you do.
In addition to compensation, you need to ask about the benefits offered by the employer. Typically, employers offer health insurance, license fees, medical staff dues and continuing medical education stipends. Also, many physician employees get three to four weeks of paid vacation and CME time. If your compensation is based in part on productivity, you will need to understand how your income may be affected when you take time off.
Many employers also provide retirement plans. In general, hospitals and health system employers offer a better range of benefits and more retirement options than private practices. Also, most employers pay for malpractice insurance. One thing to remember to ask about in the contract is if the employer pays for malpractice "tail" coverage. This covers incidents that happen during employment but are not litigated until after employment ends.
Once you have interviewed and have been offered a contract, we recommend consulting with a health care attorney to help you evaluate the contract. Choose an adviser who has experience working with physician contracts. Try to negotiate a flat fee with the attorney and keep them focused on the areas of the contract that are negotiable. This will save you time and money. Do not involve the attorney in the negotiation discussions. You should be the one who speaks directly with the organization about your contract.
Remember, you need to look for the right opportunity - clinically, professionally and personally. Take some time to make sure you ask questions. It is your responsibility to understand the employment contract and compensation offer. Make notes on anything that you do not understand or that needs clarification and ask questions along the way. For more help on these topics, download our free 10-step job search guide.
Tammy Hager is PracticeLink’s director of client and physician relations. Reach her directly at (800) 776-8383 ext. 459.