By the time you’ve walked with a candidate through the recruitment process and made a job offer, the contract may sound like it’s just the finishing touch. But contracts can make or break an otherwise appealing offer. If the work expectations, pay potential or other terms don’t look on paper like what the physician pictured, it may be back to the recruitment drawing board.
Familiarizing yourself with the components of a physician contract can help you avoid this scenario, ensuring all promised perks are reflected in print and preparing you to better answer candidates’ questions. Stu Schaff, founder and lead advisor of Contract Medicine, says that the terms of a physician employment contract can be grouped into three primary categories: work expectations, pay and legal.
The work expectations terms should be detailed enough for physicians "to be able to very clearly answer comprehensively [the] question of what am I expected to do, when, where and with whom," says Schaff.
This means covering details such as the required inpatient and outpatient work on a weekly or monthly basis, how call and other shift types are distributed, how scheduling is handled and whether physicians will work alongside aPPs. If you’ve discussed these topics with your candidate and they have certain expectations, it’s important to ensure the contract aligns with what’s been verbally agreed to.
The contract should also comprehensively answer the question of how physicians will be paid - both "for meeting those expectations and for exceeding them," says Schaff.
Compensation typically takes several forms, so this section may include base compensation, incentives, signing bonuses or forgivable loans, residency stipends, moving allowances and benefits programs.
The contract should also cover legal considerations such as termination conditions, non-compete and non-solicitation clauses and malpractice insurance coverage. Malpractice insurance is particularly key. As physicians transition from one employer to the next, they must ensure that they’re still sufficiently insured for their time with their previous employer. Providing nose coverage for "prior acts" may not be an exciting perk, but it’s an important one - and worth noting if you provide it to your employees.
Advising candidates on their contracts
Though you want to be a sounding board for all your candidates’ questions, some are better suited for a physician contract lawyer. Provide clarity and answers where you can, but don’t hesitate to recommend that your candidates consult with an expert who specializes in this area.
In addition to advising physicians on their contracts, Schaff works with physician employers and often hears that they need an unbiased contract expert to whom they could point their candidates. That unbiased opinion should ultimately be mutually beneficial for the candidate and for your organization, ensuring your candidates know what they’re getting themselves into and feel confident by the time they choose to sign.
Fostering negotiation and communication
One of the final ways that your organization can create a great impression for your candidates is by inviting their contract questions and being open to negotiations.
Linda Street, M.D., a maternal-fetal medicine physician in Augusta, Georgia, and founder of Simply Street MD Negotiation Coaching, says that employers should be willing to discuss any contract terms that are important to candidates. "A red flag for me is [an employer] who’s unwilling to have a conversation about anything that’s a deal breaker for you," says Street, "Knowing what you need, if there’s an unwillingness to consider that or to have that conversation again … that’s worrisome."
Contrastingly, welcoming negotiations shows your organization to be a benevolent employer with its physicians’ interests at heart. Even if you can’t accommodate certain requests, being willing to have the conversation shows respect for the candidate and provides a glimpse of the environment they can expect once they sign.