Joining a new practice is an exciting milestone in your career as a physician. Whether you’re just getting out of residency or have decades of experience, it’s a big step that can have a long-term impact on your compensation and career.
The employment contract will define the course of that next step. It should address your duties, compensation and other aspects of the employment relationship. A poorly drafted or one-sided contract can cause major setbacks.
Here are some common provisions to look at when considering a new employment contract:
- Termination: Even though you’re just starting the employment relationship, you should have clear expectations for how (and when) it might end. Is the contract for a set period of time? Does it automatically renew? Can your employer terminate it at-will or for cause? What is the required notice period for either side to terminate?
- Duties, workload and productivity: This is the “meat” of the agreement. There shouldn’t be any surprises when it comes to understanding the scope of your duties. The contract should address productivity, call coverage, hospital rounds, any ancillary duties (such as administrative work) and the like.
- Exclusivity: Many employers won’t want you moonlighting elsewhere. An exclusivity provision can impact your ability to earn side income. Make sure you understand the scope of this provision and consider whether it’s worth agreeing to.
- Compensation: This element may be a major focus of employment negotiations, and the contract should accurately reflect the results of those negotiations. Depending on your situation, it might make sense to have a base salary. Or your compensation might depend on a productivity formula. Whatever the case, make sure you understand the details regarding how the formula is calculated and the timing of your pay.
- Benefits: While benefits may not have a direct impact on your compensation, they can nevertheless play a big role in the financial equation. Will you get paid time off? How does that time accrue? What about health care benefits, dental coverage and the like? What about retirement? Reimbursement for continuing medical education? All of these fringe benefits should be spelled out.
- Noncompete/nonsolicitation: These provisions can limit your ability to earn a living. Make sure they’re reasonable in scope, geographic area and duration, and that they comply with applicable laws in your state.
- Malpractice insurance: If your employer covers the premiums, will you still have to meet a deductible? What about continuing coverage after you leave (“tail insurance”)?
These are just a few of the numerous provisions that go into a physician employment contract. As always, talk to an employment attorney who is familiar with the specifics in your state and area of practice. Additionally, consider hiring an attorney to advocate for your interests during the contract negotiation process.