Handshake representing negotiated first employment contract for an attending physician
Handshake representing negotiated first employment contract for an attending physician
Handshake representing negotiated first employment contract for an attending physician

Understanding Your Leverage as a New Attending

Many new graduates wonder whether they have any leverage in their first negotiation and, if so, what kind. The answer is a resounding yes.

By: Chuck Kable, JD

Published: May 18, 2024

📂 Legal Education

Written for:

✅ Residents and Fellows

✅ Early Career Physicians

Navigating the transition from residency or fellowship to a full-time position is a pivotal moment in the career of any new medical graduate. This transition often involves negotiating your first employment contract, a process that can seem daunting. Many new graduates wonder whether they have any leverage in this negotiation and, if so, what kind. The answer is a resounding yes. New medical graduates do have leverage, stemming from their fresh training, specialized skills, and the current demand in the healthcare field. This article delves into strategies and areas where new graduates can effectively negotiate their employment contracts.

Understanding Your Leverage

  1. Supply and Demand: The healthcare industry, particularly in certain specialties and geographic locations, faces a shortage of qualified physicians. New graduates in high-demand specialties or those willing to work in underserved areas have significant leverage due to the gap between supply and demand.

  2. Fresh Training and Perspectives: New graduates bring the latest medical knowledge, techniques, and a fresh perspective to their practices. This up-to-date training can be a significant asset to employers looking to stay competitive and improve patient care quality.

  3. Specialized Skills or Interests: If you have specialized skills, such as proficiency in a particular procedure or an interest in research or public health, this can increase your value to potential employers, especially if these align with the employer’s goals or gaps in their current capabilities.

Key Negotiation Strategies

Prepare Thoroughly: Research is crucial. Understand the standard contract terms for your specialty, including salary ranges, benefits, and other compensation. Tools like the MGMA (Medical Group Management Association) salary survey provide valuable benchmarks.

Highlight Your Unique Value: Make a compelling case for what sets you apart from other candidates. This could include your medical training, any research or publications, leadership roles during your residency, or your involvement in community health initiatives.

Negotiate Beyond Salary: While salary is important, other aspects of your contract can significantly impact your job satisfaction and work-life balance. These include:

  • Schedule and Workload: Negotiate your expected patient load and work hours to ensure they align with your lifestyle and career goals.

  • Professional Development Opportunities: Opportunities for further education and specialization can enhance your career trajectory. Negotiate for support for continuing medical education (CME) credits and time off for conferences or additional training.

  • Mentorship and Support: Especially for new graduates, having a structured mentorship program can be invaluable. Negotiate for a mentor within your specialty to guide you through the early stages of your career.

Utilize Professional Resources: Consider hiring a healthcare contract attorney or consultant who understands the nuances of medical contracts to review and negotiate on your behalf.

Common Areas of Leverage

  • Sign-on Bonuses and Relocation Assistance: These are often easier for employers to offer than a higher base salary and can significantly offset the costs of starting a new job, especially if it involves moving.

  • Loan Repayment Programs: Many healthcare employers offer loan repayment as part of their compensation package to attract new graduates burdened with medical school debt.

  • Flexibility and Work-Life Balance: Negotiating for flexible work hours, part-time options, or telehealth opportunities can offer a better work-life balance, making a position more attractive.

Building Your Case

Showcase Your Commitment: Employers are looking for candidates who are not just qualified but also committed to their mission and vision. Demonstrate how your values align with theirs and how you see yourself contributing to their team in the long term.

Solution-Oriented Negotiation: Approach negotiations by presenting solutions rather than making demands. Show how what you’re asking for—whether it’s a certain salary, schedule flexibility, or professional development opportunities—benefits both you and the employer.

It's not just about getting what you want

New graduates from residency or fellowship programs do have leverage in negotiating their employment contracts. The key lies in understanding your unique value, being prepared with data and benchmarks, and focusing on a comprehensive compensation package that goes beyond salary. By highlighting your up-to-date training, specialized skills, and aligning your requests with the goals of the employer, you can position yourself as a valuable asset worth investing in. Remember, negotiation is not just about getting what you want; it's about finding a mutually beneficial agreement that fosters a long-term, fulfilling career in medicine.

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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