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Negotiate your Physician Contract with these 5 Tips

by Rita Jackson | Oct 19, 2021 | Physicians, employers, employment, employment contract, healthcare employers, Healthcare Industry, medical field, negotiate physician contract, physician compensation, physician contract
Negotiate your Physician Contract with these 5 Tips

Our 2020 Physician Compensation Overview reports that the majority of physicians feel satisfied with their compensation, with the highest satisfaction levels being reported in oncology, emergency medicine, and radiology at 67%. Meanwhile, the satisfaction levels in psychiatry and otolaryngology are at 66%.

However, this also means a good 33 to 34%— or a third—of physicians are not satisfied with their compensation. For other specialties, the percentage might be even higher. A six-figure salary doesn’t guarantee fair compensation for the difficult work of practicing medicine.

The medical field can be physically and mentally demanding, especially when human lives are at stake. Therefore, it’s important to know not just what you’re worth, but how to negotiate your physician contract, compensation included, you deserve. Here are some tips on how you can do that:

1. Determine What You Need

Your pay is only one part of the equation. If your aim is to improve the quality of your working life as much as possible, there are other things you can negotiate for. These range from benefits, to schedule changes, paid time off, on-call hours and more. Therefore, it’s key that you analyze your situation and determine what it is you really need. Here are some examples of what you as a physician can negotiate on your physician contract:

  • Fewer work hours with a reasonable base pay vs. compensation for overtime
  • Bonuses based on productivity
  • A daily stipend for the time you make yourself available for work (if on-call)
  • Less vacation days for a higher compensation when on-call

There’s a line between fighting for what you want and making yourself too costly for your potential employer. Depending on how much your potential employer wants you, you might have to sacrifice parts of your compensation package to negotiate for the benefits you really want.

2. Determine Your Market Value

If you’re aiming to negotiate for a higher salary, you have to determine whether the amount you’re asking for is reasonable. You can refer to websites such as Payscale, Glassdoor, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine how much your position is usually worth in the market. Payscale gathers its salary information from anonymous, user-submitted data, which they then extensively investigate for accuracy, making it one of the more reliable salary databases out there.

You should also gather information specific to the institution and department you are considering, if possible. Research and ask questions during the interview process about what their usual rates and figures look like. Lastly, talk about pay with others in your field to encourage transparency and reduce the taboo around the subject. This way, you can get figures that you can realistically negotiate for.

3. Decide on a Range

Once you’ve done your market research, decide on a range to negotiate for.

In a Marcus article on negotiating your salary, Jill Schlesinger points out that offering a range rather than a flat number can increase the likelihood of getting a higher compensation. Employers tend not to go below the bottom number of a provided range, so if you wanted a salary of $300,000, you would suggest a range of $300,000 to $320,000 during your negotiation. Therefore, the ambitiousness of the higher end of the range will make the lower end appear more reasonable.

4. Ask for Malpractice Tail Insurance

With malpractice tail insurance, your future employer is responsible for covering any claims made against you while you were under their policy, even if you’ve already found new employment.

Understandably, it can be tricky to negotiate for a type of insurance that covers the liabilities that occur after your employment. It might appear as though you are accepting the job with the intention to leave in the future. According to the AGA Institute’s article on employment agreements, one way to secure malpractice tail insurance is to reach a compromise with your potential employer, where you pledge to assume liability under specific circumstances. These circumstances include:

  • If you terminated your employment contract without due cause
  • If you acted in a way that merits termination from your employer

Your potential employer would need to agree on the reverse, meaning they will assume liability should they terminate your employment contract without due cause, or if their actions cause you to terminate your employment contract. This way, you’ve disincentivized the option to leave your potential employer, proving your loyalty. At the same time, your potential employer is also disincentivized from dismissing you, and they would be responsible for claims filed against you should they terminate your contract unfairly.

5. Avoid Non-Compete Contracts

As much as possible, it’s important to reject non-compete clauses in your physician contract. If you don’t have any other option, try to negotiate the terms of the clause. For example, you can ask to for a one-year grace period in which the clause does not take effect. It might take you a while to establish relationships with patients in your new area of practice, so you won’t pose a competitive threat to your future employer. Therefore, if won’t make sense for your potential employer to impose a non-compete clause on your first year of employment.

You can also try to ask for exceptions for certain types of activities. For example, your contract might prevent you from working for non-profit organizations or taking teaching positions, despite the fact that these activities don’t pose any competitive threat to your practice. See if your non-compete clause can make an exception for these kinds of roles.

If you’re feeling a little reticent about negotiating your physician contract, remember that your skills are scarce.

Researchers at the Association of American Medical Colleges predict that the U.S. will have a shortage of up to 139,000 physicians by the year 2033. Because the demand for physicians is already high and it keeps increasing, it is likely that any institution you consider will do its best to make sure you pick them and stick around for the long-run.

Know your worth and fight for it.

About Our Contributor Rita Jackson: As an aspiring life coach, Rita Jackson hopes her articles can inspire young professionals to discover their best selves. In her free time, she enjoys birdwatching, going for long walks, and playing frisbee.

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