WASHINGTON, D.C.–Whether seeking to apply one’s medical training and expertise as a physician to private practice, academia, or industry, rheumatologists need to be aware of the fine art of negotiating contracts when seeking employment. Critical to effective negotiation is knowing what you want, focusing on building and maintaining relationships, and getting any verbal agreement down in writing. These were among a number of negotiating tips offered by a panel of experts during a session titled, “Contract Negotiations for Physicians,” at the recent 2012 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting, held here November 9–14. [This session was recorded and is available via ACR SessionSelect.]
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Negotiating a Career in Private Practice
Physicians interested in a career in private practice have a number of options to choose from, including a partner in private practice, a solo practice, a member and/or partner in a single-specialty group practice, or a member and/or partner in a multispecialty group practice. According to Herbert S.B. Baraf, MD, clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., the best earning potential for rheumatologists is in a single-specialty practice, as demonstrated by data that show physicians in single-specialty settings receiving the highest compensation compared to their peers in other private practice settings, such as solo practice or multispecialty practice, or hospital or academic settings.
When considering a position in private practice, Dr. Baraf emphasized the critical importance of knowing the type of position desired and the need to be honest with oneself in determining it. Key questions to consider are whether one wants a full-time or part-time position and whether the choice of career is consistent with the life plans of one’s spouse, as well. Along with compensation, other important issues to consider are whether you like the people and the facility of the specialty group that you are considering joining.
“These questions become increasingly important as you move toward partnership, because this is a marriage,” he said.
Dr. Baraf emphasized that there are two stages to contractual relationships when negotiating a position in a private practice group. The first contract will be an employee agreement that is for a limited period of time, about one to two years, and can be considered an “engagement” period with the specialty group. What you really want, he said, is to move on to the second agreement that “marries” you to the group as a shareholder. Partnership, he emphasized, is the prize.