Negotiating an employment agreement can be a nervous and stressful time for many physicians. These agreements are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and will define when and where you practice medicine. Here are a few tips that will reduce your anxiety.
Negotiations start immediately.
The moment you begin speaking to a recruiter, you are negotiating your position. It is important to be open and honest with an employer. You should not commit to any specifics regarding salary requirements or work schedule until you have evaluated the offer as a whole.
It is best to discuss compensation only after an official offer has been made and after you have evaluated the facilities, support staff and benefits package. Remember that even "standard" contracts that "every physician has signed" can be changed
Prioritize your needs.
Every physician has unique needs in their employment. A four-day work week may be the most important factor for a new mother. A resident with large amounts of student loan debt may need to maximize compensation.
Only you know what your needs are, and you should communicate to the employer which terms of the proposed agreement are truly "deal breakers" during your first round of negotiations.
Contract terms to consider include:
• Call schedule
• Malpractice tail coverage
Know your value.
Underestimating your value can substantially reduce your compensation. It is rare that the first offer made is the best you can receive. Conversely, overestimating your value can lead to an offer being pulled and a relationship with the organization destroyed. To determine your value, consider geographic specific salary data, competing offers, length of time the position has been open, total revenue you will generate, and the number of candidates being considered for the position.
Keep "Plan B" alive.
As Yogi Berra said, "It’s not over ’til it’s over." You should never turn down an offer until you have determined with 100% certainty that you will not be accepting the position. Negotiations can take many weeks and occasionally will turn sour. If this happens, you will need to have another option or two for consideration.
Get professional guidance.
Any contract (employment or otherwise) that is worth a significant amount of money should be analyzed by a professional. Attorneys specialize in practice areas just like physicians. You would not go to an orthopedic surgeon for a colonoscopy, and you should not go to your cousin (or brother, aunt, etc.) who practices family law to review your employment contract.
Find a health care attorney with experience reviewing physician employment agreements. As Benjamin Franklin stated, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Kyle Claussen, JD, LLM (kclaussen@ resolvephysicianagency.com) is vice president at Resolve Physician Agency, Inc.