Seven Job-Search Mistakes of New Physicians

Leigh Page

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April 07, 2015

In This Article

Learn to Slow Down

6. Rushing to Accept the First Good Offer

One major reason why new physicians aren't happy with their first job is that they didn't thoroughly investigate the opportunity before signing the contract.

"A lot of young physicians jump at a job without doing much due diligence," says contract attorney Jim Barna. Rather than refuse a job that has glaring problems, "they might try to deal with it by just working a little harder," he says. "After all, that's what they do with clinical problems. But when it comes to employment problems, it just leads to burnout."

Take the time upfront, Barna advises, to examine the job opportunity from many different angles. "Ask in-depth questions when talking to the recruiter and physicians in the organization you're applying to," he says. "Meet doctors in the community and ask their opinions." These interactions can be part of your visit for the job interview, or you can call people later.

Jackson & Coker's Tony Stajduhar adds that it's important to get an idea of the culture of the organization during the interview. "When you walk into an office, you can feel the atmosphere," he says. "Is it friendly and cooperative, or is everyone not getting along? If you want to find out more, call a doctor afterwards."

Dr Block says that it's important that young physicians also "ask about physician turnover," which, he says, can indicate deeper problems if doctors in the practice are always on the move.

Candidates should pay particular attention to the contract. It's usually sent to you simply with a request to sign and return it, and "some people just do that," Barna says. "You should never just sign a contract. It should first be reviewed by an attorney." Sometimes prospective employers say it's a standard contract and can't be changed, but Barna says that even contracts from large organizations are usually altered.

Find a contract attorney skilled with physicians' contracts because they're quite different from other contracts, according to Ericka Adler. She says that contract attorneys typically charge $1500 to $2000 to review the documents, although some charge somewhat less and, mindful of residents' tight budgets, will allow for a payment plan.

Often, new physicians get more than one contract offer, says Ezra Reinstein, a physicians' contract attorney in Needham, Massachusetts. This rattles some of his clients. "They feel they have a moral obligation to decline one of the offers, post-haste," he says. He advises clients to slow down. Sometimes one of the contracts still hasn't been presented yet.

"Don't be in a hurry," Reinstein says. Wait until both contracts can be compared side by side. "Figure out which is the less appealing one," and then, rather than reject the offer, "tell them what they would have to change," he says. "Give them a chance to make a better offer."

Reinstein says that new physicians need to be cautious. For example, some employers ask candidates to sign a "binding offer" letter before the contract is sent, with the expectation that many details will be hashed out later. He counsels against signing because it implies a commitment to key issues, such as salary, that are difficult to undo later.

Negotiating the contract usually comes down to the physician, not the attorney, yet the mere presence of a lawyer might make the prospective employer more defensive. "I don't want to damage the relationship," Barna says. That said, he encourages candidates to use the attorney as the heavy in the negotiations. "Feel free to blame me," he says. "Tell them, 'The lawyer says it needs to be like this.'"

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