Congratulations! After a decade of slaving away in your medical training, you’ve got your first job offer in hand! If you’re really lucky, you might have several offers to evaluate. But wait, there’s all this legalese and gibberish—nothing makes sense!
Do you just hire a contract lawyer and be done with it? How much is a good rate for a contract review anyway? You call around to your friends and colleagues who graduated a year or two before you to inquire. They give you some advice, but it turns out that they might not be too familiar either. What should you do?
There are some fundamental aspects to understanding job contracts that everyone should know. These are the things to follow:
Have someone review your contract.
Yes, this means shelling out some money and having a contract lawyer or a review company who is familiar with your area look at the contract. As much as you want to save money, this is money well spent. The last thing you want to do is move your family to a new city for a new job only to realize that you have to take call every other night even though there are ten doctors in your practice!
This may cost you several hundred dollars up to a thousand, and it will sting especially if you are in your first job. This is something that I don’t recommend skimping out on.
Someone who is familiar with your area may know that there are certain rules or laws that pertain only to your city. Moreover, they may know the history and track record of hospitals or medical practices in the area. That information by itself is invaluable.
Read the contract yourself.
Hiring someone to review your contract simply isn’t enough. You need to spend some time reviewing the legalese as well so that you can be informed about what your contract reviewer is going to say. Here are a few key items that I considered:
- Salary: How much are you going to get paid? How long is that guaranteed for? Are the any incentives to exceed the standard salary? I would compare the offer salary to what is considered the norm in your field (MGMA, AMGA), and how many years that you have been in practice. For instance, there are different ranges for starting salaries depending on your given specialty. Try to find out what they are, and figure out where you stand in the range.
- Noncompete: Some contracts have restrictive covenants that prevent you from working within a certain distance and duration of the employer in the event that you decide to leave the group. The laws vary depending on which state you are in, and you can determine if any of these rules are enforceable. How much do these laws actually matter to you? If there is any possibility that you would need to stay in the area if you left your job, you should consider getting this clause removed or negotiated.
- Growth: Will your job be any different after your first few years? Do you have any possibility of becoming a partner, owning any equity in the practice, or expanding? Is there any real estate in the practice that you could potentially own?
- Time off: Is there PTO? Does it accrue? Is it enough for your needs?
- Maternity leave: This is huge. Some hospitals or employers will stiff you on the maternity leave. They may not have a clause at all for this. If there is any possibility that you would need to invoke this benefit, negotiate this in or walk away.
- Locations: Some practices have multiple offices in different locations in different cities. How much do you want to travel? Do you have to fly to satellite offices (Yes, this can happen)?
Compare your offer with others that you might have received.
You can really learn quite a bit if you have two different offers on the table. There is unlikely going to be one ideal offer that is a no brainer. You will have to settle on certain conditions. Some practices or hospitals are just arranged differently. If everyone else in the group is taking call for the entire state, it’s not likely that you can get away with negotiating that out of your contract.
Consider the overall terms of the contract.
This category includes everything that is not objective. How is the writing in the contract? Are your potential employers sticklers? Do they nickel and dime you? This really calls upon your Spider Sense. Some of us are great at identifying things that could go wrong. Others, not so much. How flexible is the employer? Do they want to hire you badly enough to amend their rules?
Remember. Don’t push your luck and burn bridges. If an employer is unwilling to agree to your terms, don’t get angry. If the subject in contention is a deal breaker for you, just walk away. I think that most people are willing to be open amenable to negotiation as long as it does not put them in a financially or logistically challenging position.
What other terms have you considered in contract negotiation?
(Photo courtesy of Flickr)