Contract negotiations can be a source of stress for both new and experienced practitioners. Although many practitioners zero in on monetary compensation, it is not the only element to consider when optimizing the benefits of the contract. Almost all physicians are exempt employees (not paid overtime) who receive basic pay. According to author Jonathan Ford Hughes, physicians should focus on total compensation, as opposed to just monetary compensation, during contract negotiations. This means considering factors such as bonus, paid time off or profit-sharing distribution.
Physicians should check readily available physician salary data, such as US news and world reportPhysician salary reports, in an effort to gain a sensible perspective on what they should be earning. Many physician salary reports break down data into specialties, such as location and specialty, to make it clearer for physicians to determine their appropriate salary. Hughes likens this transparency of information to a game of chess, in which both sides can see the entire game board. However, he suggests turning the contract negotiations into a game of poker by playing within the net of total compensation. In other words, when negotiating with employers, physicians should consider that employers are not telling them how other physicians may have negotiated certain benefits in their contracts.
Another important factor in contract negotiations is the current state of the US workforce, which is evolving in every sector, including healthcare. Like other industries, the healthcare industry is struggling to keep up with workers. a new York Times An article examining the pandemic’s impact on physician stress levels noted that COVID-19 has exacerbated an already existing physician shortage, leaving many wobbly physicians choosing to retire. Hospitals and group practices are facing an immense need for physicians. This requirement may allow physician leverage in contract negotiations.
Negotiable factors include perks such as bonuses. According to a report from the American Medical Association, physicians often receive bonuses based on patient volume and/or quality of patient outcomes. Hughes suggests that therapists take advantage of this information by using performance-based pay to negotiate compensation percentages. Another negotiable perk is paying on time. While this will not result in higher base pay, higher paid time-off means more paid non-working hours. Given the incentive to avoid increases in health care premiums by keeping employees healthy, many healthcare employers are offering gym memberships as perks. Therefore, Hughes suggests negotiating either a free or discounted gym membership into a contract.