Lucky you! You’ve just finished your residency and are considering various “real” job offers with hospitals and practice groups. Finally, a chance to be a full-fledged physician with a good salary and benefits and a chance to start to pay off your student loans. Among other things, here are some questions you or any physician moving to a new practice should be asking about your new position:
- Are you being asked to sign a written employment agreement?
- If so, do you understand and agree with all the terms and provisions?
- If not, are you getting legal advice?
- What are your call and coverage responsibilities?
- How many other physicians in your practice are available for call and are their schedules and responsibilities similar to yours?
- If you plan to work a part-time schedule, does your employment agreement specify your regular hours and days off?
- What locations/facilities will you be expected to work in? How long is the commute?
- What is your base salary? Is it guaranteed and, if so, for how long?
- Have you looked at compensation surveys to see if the offer is comparable to that received by physicians with similar experience and skills in your area?
- Are you being offered incentive compensation such as work relative value units (wRVUs) and, if so, how does that system work and what specific benchmarks will be used?
- How is call compensated? Is only “excess” call compensated beyond base salary?
- How much vacation, CME and other paid time off will you have? How are decisions in your new practice made about who gets to take high-in-demand periods off?
- How may your income be affected by taking vacation or other time off?
- Does your new employer provide paid family leave?
- Does your new employer pay for your malpractice insurance and, if so, what kind is it?
- If it is “claims made” malpractice coverage, does it include part or all of “tail coverage” for any period after your employment ends?
Term/Termination, Restrictive Covenants and other “Legalese”
- What is the actual length or term of the agreement?
- What are the reasons you can be terminated and do you have any opportunity to “cure” any problems cited by your employer as its reason for terminating you?
- How much notice must you give before you quit?
- Will you be bound by a non-compete or non-solicitation provision and, if so, for how long and in what geographic area?
- Does your state limit the use of non-compete or non-solicitation provisions?
- How might these provisions affect your ability to practice medicine if your employment ends?
- What is the scope of post-employment activities that your employer wishes to restrict and, if it appears to be broad, can it be limited in some acceptable way?
- Will your contract continue to be honored in the event the practice is sold to or merges with another entity?
Obviously, this list is meant to get you started in thinking about your new employment agreement, but it is not exhaustive. Before signing such a contract, it is usually advisable to ask questions of your new employer, speak with colleagues, engage in research, and seek legal guidance to ensure you have evaluated all of the necessary considerations and fully understand the document you are signing.