Physician meeting with a recruiter reviewing what should be included and omited from a physician contract
Physician meeting with a recruiter reviewing what should be included and omited from a physician contract

Understanding physician contracts and navigating expectations

Read PracticeLink articles by Megan Trippi
Megan Trippi

Table of Contents

Physician contracts shape your professional journey. Whether you’re a newly graduated physician embarking on your career or a seasoned provider considering a new opportunity, comprehending the intricacies of your physician contract is essential.

So, how do you begin understanding physician contracts?

Decipher the language

Physician contracts often contain legal and medical terminology that can be daunting for those not well-versed in the field. Take the time to thoroughly read and comprehend your contract’s language. If certain terms or phrases are unclear, don’t hesitate to seek clarification from legal experts or colleagues who have experience in contract negotiations.

Breaking down the contract into manageable sections can make the process less overwhelming. Key sections to focus on include:

Practice and responsibilities

This section outlines the specific duties and responsibilities expected of you. It covers patient care, administrative tasks, on-call duties and potentially any involvement in research or teaching. Be certain you understand the full extent of your role and how it aligns with your expertise.

Compensation and benefits

Know the details of your compensation plan, which includes your base salary, bonuses, incentives and benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans and CME allowances. Ensure the compensation structure is clearly outlined, leaving no room for ambiguity.

Schedule and hours

Your work schedule, including regular hours, on-call shifts and any weekend responsibilities, should be outlined. Make sure you’re comfortable with the workload and that it aligns with your work-life balance goals.

Termination clause

Thoroughly review the conditions under which the contract can be terminated, whether by you or the employer. Understand the notice period required and the circumstances that can lead to termination – both with and without cause.


Managing expectations

Understanding your physician contract goes beyond just comprehending the legal jargon; it’s about aligning your expectations with the reality of the position. Here are some key aspects to consider:

Work and patient load

Take time to gauge the patient load and clinical demands outlined in the contract. Assess whether the workload is feasible and whether you’ll have the necessary support staff to ensure high-quality patient care.

Call responsibility

On-call duties are often part of physician contracts, particularly in specialties that require continuous patient care. Understand the frequency of on-call shifts and how they might impact your personal life.

Work-life balance

Your contract should provide a fair balance between work commitments and personal time. Evaluate whether the work schedule aligns with your goals and allows you to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Growth opportunities

Consider the potential for professional growth within the organization. Does the contract allow for career advancement, additional responsibilities or specialization? An understanding of growth opportunities is crucial for long-term career satisfaction.

Organizational values

Research the organization’s culture and values to ensure they resonate with your own. A strong alignment with the organization’s mission and values can contribute to a more fulfilling work experience.

Contract attorney

While you may be well-versed in medical matters, legal intricacies can be challenging to navigate. Seeking advice from an experienced medical contract attorney can provide you with invaluable insights. A legal expert can review the contract to ensure your rights are protected, the terms are fair and there are no hidden pitfalls.

Contract negotiation

Physician contracts are often negotiable, and you have the right to propose modifications that align with your needs and preferences. Before entering negotiations, conduct thorough research about typical compensation packages and contract terms for your specialty and geographic area. When negotiating, focus on areas most important to you, such as compensation, call schedule or benefits. Be prepared to compromise on some aspects while standing firm on others.


Understanding your physician contract is one of the first steps to a successful and fulfilling career. Remember, your contract is not just a legal document; it’s a roadmap that will guide your journey as a physician within the healthcare landscape. Approach it with diligence, patience and a clear understanding of your rights and responsibilities.

Read PracticeLink articles by Megan Trippi

Megan Trippi

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