The employment contract is the agreement between you and your employer, and it has one purpose, to protect the employer. Besides being hard to understand because of legal language, they are also lengthy. 

In this post, we’re going to cover some of the basics that you need to know before signing your employment contract. You should take the time to read it carefully and take into consideration the option of having a professional look at it. If anything raises concerns, you should ask for reasonable changes. 

  1. Work Expectations and Obligations 

Most contracts have a designated section for the expectations and job obligations that they are binding you to. The mistake many physicians make is skimming over this section. Because most of these duties are clear, they are still affirmative obligations that you are agreeing to. They outline your job and what your employer expects of you. 

It is important to understand that after signing your contract, it is very difficult to undo these obligations. A detailed list of the specific proposed duties should be negotiated and clearly articulated in the employment contract. 

For example, appointment hours, hospital rounds, office duties, call schedule,  medical record documentation, and review of tests and lab results. Physicians should also pay attention to what the contract may hold them back from, for example, speeches, moonlighting at other facilities, and more.  

After you are clear about your duties you may be happy with them or want to change something. Negotiating this section can be intimidating and seem rough, but being upfront and making your job obligations clear is beneficial for you and your employer. 

  1. Termination Policy

Termination is a serious topic that many either don’t want to think about or don’t see it as important. This section allows for an agreement between the employer and you at the end of a relationship. 

To be safe, it is always best to review the termination policy to be clear of what is to happen in the case of termination.

 Most physician contracts have a set term, plus provisions for early termination before the set term expires. The grounds of early termination can be either “without cause” or “for cause.” 

Depending on which cause your contract states could influence the way you negotiate your contract. It is important to review with this in mind and always consult a professional if you are unsure about what your contract entitles. 

“With Cause” Termination: In a with cause termination, the employer is able to terminate a physician when and if the physician breaks the contract or the law. With this termination policy the employer is not required to give the physician a notice. 

“Without Cause” Termination: Under a without cause termination, the employer is able to terminate a physician with no reason. However, usually they will be required to give a notice to the physician. 

  1. Compensation 

If you’re a new physician looking at your first compensation, it may be hard to wrap your head around it. With what you may have been making in the past, younger physicians either overestimate or underestimate compensation. 

You will see that many compensation packages offered to new physicians will be dependent on regional and market factors. The salary can be influenced by location, type of practice, clinical quality of the group and more.

A good way to know if you are getting fair compensation is to see what the earning of other related physicians make in your area. If the cost of living is lower, the salary is often times lower and vice versa. 

A lot of times, physicians take a job based on the compensation. Keep in mind that although the salary is a big selling point is not the most important thing on the contract. 

  1. Employment Status

The most basic question you should ask yourself is, ‘what am I being hired as’. You should pay attention to what the contract is stating. Are you a direct employee of the hospital or group? Are you being independently contracted? Are you a shareholder, or partner? 

This can change the way you may view your compensation as well as the rest of the contract. You also may have different expectations or preferences, so it is important that before you move on you understand where you stand.

  1. Benefits

In today’s economy, physicians are usually offered benefits. These are stated in your contract, if you don’t review the contract carefully, you could miss it. Health Insurance, disability insurance and malpractice insurance are very common benefits that you should be looking for or asking for as a potential employee. 

Other benefits may include, vacation time or bonuses. Some of these may be personal preferences as a deal breaker or something you may want to negotiate. But keep in mind that many of these benefits translate to financial value and should be taken seriously. 

Make sure you are watching for one-time payments. When the employer offers you a big signing bonus, keep in mind that a one-time payment won’t make up for the long-term payment. Although this bonus may be a great incentive that you could use right away, look at the big picture before making any decisions. 

Signing the contract is the most important decisions you will make in your career, it will bind you to your employer an influence your day to day life on the job. The contract has the potential to turn an average job into your dream job. Be sure you are reviewing it carefully and if you are running into trouble or are unsure of anything, it is always best to contact a professional.