Negotiating an employment agreement for an anesthesia/pain management position, whether it’s your first time or your last, can be a challenging experience for providers. Approaching the process with the right attitude and preparation can help make the experience more successful.
Here are some important suggestions to keep in mind:
1. I recommend you work with counsel. Find a lawyer familiar with physician contracts, and even one with experience handling anesthesia/pain management contracts. It’s worth the time and expense to get proper advice. You need a representative who will ask the right questions of both you and the employer, and seek out the most protective language to avoid future misunderstandings.
2. Decide how you want to handle negotiations and express your wishes to anyone representing you. Negotiations go more easily and quickly when parties seek an efficient and fair resolution to issues. An overly aggressive or hostile lawyer is a poor representative of your interests. Anesthesia contract negotiations should not be personal. Sometimes you get everything you want and sometimes you do not. In my opinion, a lawyer or consultant has done his or her job when they help their client understand the contract terms, focus on the real issues, communicate the need for the requested changes in a professional manner and help the parties reach as amicable a conclusion as possible.
3. Learn as much as you can about the practice you are joining so you can best prepare for the negotiation strategy. Is it a hospital based group that has used the same contract for 20 years and is unlikely to negotiate? Is it a smaller pain management or anesthesia group that works with physicians to create an agreeable contract? How do these different opportunities impact your approach to negotiations and your expectations? It’s also important to understand how important you, as a physician, are to the group and the impact that might have on the contract negotiations. A practice that has more applicants than positions will more easily reject requested changes, while a group desperate for coverage may be more amenable to negotiating modifications. It is also true that a young physician coming out of training may not be in the same position to negotiate as their more senior/experienced colleague.
4. When you cannot get a change you want, search for other avenues of bringing you closer to a resolution you can live with. For example, there are certain parts of a contract that are going to seem unfair to a physician joining a practice, such as a restrictive covenant/non-compete which, in most states, is enforceable when properly drafted. Rather than arguing to have the non-compete removed, consider having the covenant apply only if the physician quits or is terminated without cause. Many significant issues can be compromised in some cordial manner by thinking outside the box!
It’s important to remember that tough negotiations can leave a bad taste for all parties long after the contracts are signed. The manner in which a contract negotiation is handled can set the tone for the parties’ entire working relationship. Be professional in every interaction with your employer and you will be on the path to success.
Author: Ericka Adler, J.D., LL.M. concentrates her practice in regulatory and transactional health care law. She represents individual providers, physician groups and other health care entities in satisfying their day-to-day legal health care needs. Ms. Adler devotes a large part of her practice to advising professionals and practices on their contracts and compensation arrangements, and in assisting her clients in the acquisition and sale of health care entities. She works with providers in matters relating to HIPAA, fraud and abuse, billing audits, government investigations, licensure matters and contract disputes.
Ericka Adler can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-580-1602