Practice Advice on Physician Contract Review

Contract review is an essential step for every physician job search. This is especially true for resident physicians who are seeking their first “real” job, and it is also true for experienced physicians who have been through the hiring process before.

Before having your contract reviewed, it is a good idea to try and understand how your prospective employer perceives their contract. Some good questions for physician candidates to ask include:

  • How long has the hospital or group used this specific contract?
  • Are all physicians in the hospital or group employed under this same contract?
  • Is this contract negotiable?

Having answers to these questions will enable you to intelligently evaluate feedback from your contract reviews. If the contract is non-negotiable, then all that is left to do is determine the risks and rewards within the contract and make a decision. If the contract is varied or hasn’t been in place for a long time, then you may have room for more contract changes and negotiations, if necessary. Not being aware of these circumstances can lead a physician job seeker to miscalculate or make mistakes during the contract review process.

Attorney Contract Review

Every physician should have his or her contract reviewed by an attorney before signing and officially accepting the offer. A good contract attorney will offer the following services:

  • Explain the language of the contract in plain English
  • Explain all of your obligations contained in the contract
  • Explain all of the employer’s obligations contained in the contract
  • Accurately evaluate the contract for unfair clauses or language
  • Evaluate the contract for language or clauses that may be missing
  • Be able to complete the review in a timely manner

Ideally, you will be able to locate an attorney that focuses on contract law, and in particular, one who has a lot of experience with physician contracts. Physician contracts can contain many clauses which are uncommon to, or different from, contracts which are typical to other high end professions. This can lead to bad attorney advice, which can lead to unfruitful negotiations, and ultimately a bad outcome for the physician who otherwise wanted the job.

Better Get a Second Opinion on That Contract

We recommend getting a second opinion (or multiple opinions) and then weighing all the advice together before acting on your attorney’s feedback. Here are some ideas for getting valuable second opinions:

  • Ask the potential employer to review the contract with you. Most likely, the employer will be happy to introduce you to someone from their organization who really understands the contract and how/why it works for them. The contract is a mutual arrangement, and physicians can gain a different perspective by understanding both sides.
  • Trusted and experienced colleagues are sometimes helpful for contract review. If a colleague provides negative feedback, you should ask some follow-up questions and try to make sure your colleague’s advice hasn’t been tainted by an isolated negative experience.
  • Physicians currently employed under the same contract that you have been offered may be the best source for a second opinion. Employers are typically amenable to setting up an informal meeting between an existing and potential physician employee. Take advantage of opportunities like this during your interview process to ask the employed physician his impressions of the contract.

Peace of Mind

Contract review is a vital step in a physician job search. It provides understanding, security, and most importantly, peace of mind. Most physician contracts have been fine-tuned over years of negotiation to work well for both the physician and the employer, so it’s actually uncommon to find serious complications during the process. Due diligence requires a thorough contract review, but don’t get too caught up in it. If you’ve found the right job, your contract will be stuck in a desk drawer immediately after you sign it, probably never to be read again.

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