7 Hidden Pitfalls in Physician Employment Contracts: How to Spot and Avoid Them

Physician employment contracts can be lengthy and complex, containing clauses that might limit your professional freedom down the road.

By: Chuck Kable, JD

Published: May 21, 2024

📂 Legal Education

Written for:

✅ Early Career Physicians

✅ Mid Career Physicians

✅ Established Professionals

Congratulations! You've landed that dream job in medicine. You're excited to start a new chapter, but before you sign on the dotted line, take a deep breath. Physician employment contracts can be lengthy and complex, containing clauses that might limit your professional freedom down the road. Let's delve into the world of hidden clauses and equip you with the knowledge to protect yourself and your career.

Beyond Salary and Benefits

Salary and benefits are crucial, but they're not the whole story. Here are some hidden clauses to watch out for:

  1. Non-Compete Clauses These clauses restrict your ability to practice medicine within a certain geographic area after leaving your current employer. While the FTC is currently attempting to eliminate most of these clauses, understanding them remains crucial as lawsuits challenging the FTC’s authority have already been filed. Can you take a job at a nearby hospital? Open your own practice down the street? Knowing your rights is key.

  2. Restrictive Call Schedules Excessive call schedules can lead to burnout and compromise patient care. Carefully review call frequency, duration, and compensation terms within the contract.

  3. Limitations on Moonlighting Opportunities Many physicians engage in moonlighting or locum tenens work to supplement their income or gain additional experience. Is your contract silent on this, or does it explicitly restrict these activities?

Negotiation Strategies

Don't be intimidated by legalese! Here are some tips for negotiating a fair contract:

  1. Do Your Research Be aware of average salaries and benefits for your specialty and geographic location. This equips you to negotiate for fair compensation.

  2. Seek Guidance Consider consulting with a lawyer specializing in healthcare employment law. They can help you understand complex clauses and advise you on negotiation strategies.

  3. Focus on Key Terms Prioritize negotiating the terms most important to you, such as salary, call schedule flexibility, and benefits package.

  4. Don't Be Afraid to Walk Away If the contract contains unfavorable clauses and negotiations aren't successful, consider walking away. Your well-being and career flexibility are paramount.

Know Your Rights

Understanding your legal rights as an employee empowers you during contract negotiations. Here are some resources:

  • The American Medical Association (AMA): The AMA provides resources and guidance on physician employment contracts, including sample clauses and best practices for negotiation.

  • Your State Medical Association: Many state medical associations offer legal resources and support to their members.

  • The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB): The NLRB enforces federal labor laws, including your right to fair compensation and a safe working environment.

Empowerment Through Knowledge

By familiarizing yourself with common hidden clauses, developing negotiation strategies, and understanding your legal rights, you can approach your employment contract with confidence. Remember, this contract outlines your professional relationship with your employer. Taking the time to understand its terms is an investment in your career and well-being. So, grab your metaphorical magnifying glass, scrutinize those clauses, and advocate for the future you deserve!

Additional Resources:

By following these guidelines and leveraging available resources, physicians can navigate employment contracts effectively, ensuring their career and financial goals are well-protected.

Ready to take the next step? From Resident to Practicing Physician: Understanding Employment Contracts

With Chuck Kable, JD 🟢

1. Book Your Session

2. Unpack Employment Contracts

3. Secure Favorable Contract Terms

Choose a Time 🚀

Mastering Your First Employment Agreement: Tailored for newly graduated doctors about to sign their first employment contracts, emphasizing understanding over negotiation.

As you transition from medical school and residency to your first position as a practicing physician, navigating employment contracts is crucial. This session delves into the essentials of employment agreements, focusing on clauses such as non-compete, compensation structures, and malpractice insurance implications. Equip yourself with the knowledge to take control of your career.  Learn not just what your contract means, but how to manage it and your new employer to set yourself up for maximum flexibility with minimum hassle.

Disclaimer: This educational session provides general information on employment contracts in healthcare and is not intended to substitute for professional legal advice. No attorney-client relationship will be created by attending this session. Consult a licensed attorney for advice on specific legal issues.

Read more by Chuck Kable, JD

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