Navigating the intricacies of physician contract negotiations and knowing key mistakes to avoid can seem overwhelming without the best strategies and knowledge on your side. Although the number one clause most physicians negotiate is salary, much more must be carefully considered as part of physician employment agreements.
This article will provide valuable insights and best practices to help you negotiate your physician contract.
How to Negotiate Your Physician Contract
To avoid common negotiation pitfalls that lead to missed opportunities and unfavorable employment contract terms, it’s vital that you are aware of best practices during the contract negotiation process. According to the American Medical Association, successful negotiations empower you to shape contract terms to meet your needs in areas like compensation, work hours, responsibilities, benefits, and potential for growth. Your physician contract should align with your professional goals and career aspirations.
Knowing best practices for negotiations is only half of the battle; you must also be aware of the most common mistakes physicians make during negotiations so you can avoid them. Key considerations for negotiating physician contracts include the following:
Identify your priorities
To successfully negotiate physician contracts, define your non-negotiables, priorities, and nice-to-haves before entering negotiations. Consider points like work-life balance, schedule flexibility, professional development, other stipends, and call schedules.
Research the potential employer
When researching the institution or organization with which you will enter into physician contract negotiation, you must first understand its values, financial stability, reputation, and culture to negotiate from an informed, educated standpoint. An educated standpoint will enable you to tailor requests as you see fit.
Analyze the compensation structure and benefits package
Look beyond salary and consider everything from retirement plans, vacation time, and continuing medical education (CME) allowances to incentive opportunities and bonus structures. Understand the base salary and productivity expectations along with professional growth potential. The compensation you accept should reflect the market value of your position, as well as your expertise and experience.
Seek legal guidance
One of the best ways to ensure you navigate legal complexities appropriately is to retain an experienced healthcare attorney specializing in physician employment contracts. Contract lawyers can help you secure a contract that protects your interests and rights. They also can provide invaluable negotiation counsel.
Be clear on restrictive covenants and professional development opportunities
Pay close attention to all terms that appear in the physician contract, such as non-solicitation agreements and non-compete clauses. Be clear on the duration, scope, and potential impact on your future career options; always negotiate terms conducive to flexibility and professional growth. Don’t hesitate to discuss professional development opportunities like research involvement, mentorship programs, termination provisions, and teaching opportunities.
Mistakes to Avoid When Negotiating Your Physician Contract
While keeping previously mentioned tips and suggestions in mind is valuable, it’s also vital to keep common mistakes front of mind so you can avoid them during your negotiations.
Overlooking non-financial terms and benefits
While salary is the most negotiated contract term for physicians, it’s not the only important one. Many physicians make the mistake of overlooking non-financial terms that significantly impact their careers and job satisfaction. These include leadership roles, continuing education opportunities, paid time off, and disability benefits. It can also include health insurance, retirement plans, and malpractice insurance.
Failing to set clear priorities and goals
Many physicians also make the mistake of being so eager to accept a position that they fail to set goals and expectations for what they want from their relationship with their future employer. A contract cannot align with your professional goals if you do not first identify what those goals are and what matters most to you.
Ignoring tailored compensation
Compensation models vary greatly depending on geographic location, specialty, and experience. Failing to consider a compensation structure that aligns with these factors is a common (and quite costly) mistake. Conduct research on industry standards and compensation averages for your specialty and location to negotiate a fair, competitive contract.
Brushing contract clauses aside
Always know that every word in a contract is intentionally included for a reason, and none should be ignored. Physicians can quickly become overwhelmed with complex legal jargon and fail to understand the contract language fully. This can be detrimental, so consulting legal counsel is strongly recommended to ensure you are clear on termination clauses, compensation structures, and other key clauses.
How to Secure the Best Employment Agreement
Securing the best physician employment agreement depends on identifying priorities, researching the employer, analyzing compensation, and clarifying covenants and clauses. Avoid overlooking non-financial terms and underestimating the value of benefits presented in the contract.
Failing to set clear priorities or properly evaluate contract clauses can be devastating to your overall job satisfaction. It can also lead to limited growth opportunities and burnout. Negotiation is a two-way process, and not only should you actively negotiate your contract, but you also have the legal right to do so.
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