Carolyn Buppert, NP, JD

Disclosures

July 05, 2000

Question

I am currently renegotiating my contract with my collaborating physician who is the Chairman of the Board of the medical corporation that employs me. I have been asked to agree to "devote all time and energies" to the corporation and cannot take other employment opportunities "without the written consent of the Board of Directors." I am very uncomfortable with these statements. Is this a common contractual restriction?

Denise J. Hough, MSN, CRNP

Response from Carolyn Buppert, NP, JD

Yes. It is common for private practice owners to require nurse practitioners (NPs) (and employed physicians as well) under contract to devote full time and energy to the practice. It is also common for employers to require NPs to divulge any professional activities that may compete with the employee's efforts for the practice.

Although these requirements sound contrary to an individual's right to do as he pleases with his own time (and they are), employers want assurance that employed clinicians will stay late when needed, or rearrange office hours when needed, or be available to take call. NPs who moonlight, teach, consult, or who engage in other professional activities will have demands on their time, which may conflict with the demands of the practice. (An employee's time and energy devoted to family, hobbies, and friends also may conflict with the demands of the practice, but no employer has gone so far as to require employees to restrict those interests.)

If you are contracting for part-time work, then you should preserve your ability to take on other employment or projects, ie, you should not agree to restrict your time and energies. You can do that by stating up front that you plan to seek other employment and describe what you have planned. Most of the time, employers will alter the contract language to allow you to work elsewhere, as long as the second job is not likely to keep you away from patients at the current practice and as long as you are not working for a competing practice.

If you are contracting for full-time work, you still may be able to negotiate for the freedom to take on other forms of employment. The employer will want enough information to determine whether the other employment opportunity will distract you from your work with his or her practice, make you unavailable when needed, or will compete with your major employer.

If you want to take on additional jobs, and you know that at this time, and you present the facts to the Chairman of the Board, and are turned down, then that may be reason to negotiate a higher salary or other terms from the current employer. Your argument goes as follows: By agreeing to devote full time and energies to your current employer, you are foregoing other lucrative and available positions in your "off" hours. Your promise to forego those activities is worth something.

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