Legal Articles

Attorney Robert A. Howard IIINegotiating Physician Employment Contracts in Iowa

Rob A. Howard III | Hopkins & Huebner, P.C. | Des Moines Office

You’ve spent approximately a decade of your time and energy.  You’ve indebted yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars.  It is finally time to fully enjoy the benefits of your sacrifice. Congratulations, you’ve made it!  Unfortunately, there is just one final step, the employment contract.  Unlike medical school and residency - where the terms are largely set - you get to be a participant in crafting what will be the terms of your employment.  While you’ve dealt with stress before, in the hospital and being on call, this is a different sort of stress.  You are used to everyone being on the same team, doing what is best for the patient.  Now, it seems, you are in a situation which appears to assure conflict with other people.  You are going to be negotiating over legalese words on pieces of paper, which will govern your relationship with your future employer for the next few years of your life.  Luckily, this does not have to be that stressful of a situation; you just need to know what you want from this relationship.

How to negotiate an employment contract

One of the greatest concerns facing many physicians is that negotiations could potentially offend their prospective employer.  It seems like you are really getting off on the wrong foot when you start a relationship with, what seems to some people – an argument.  This is not an argument.  While there are certainly ways to offend in the negotiation process, negotiating itself does not have to be an offensive proposition.  In fact, it may be collaborative.  Physicians come from different backgrounds with many different life experiences and life goals.  As a result, different physicians are looking for different things out of their employment experience.  One size does not fit all with physicians.  However, a prospective employer cannot know what will best work for you, and them, if you do not have that conversation.

The contract should be negotiable.  If a potential employer is not willing to negotiate the contract, this unwillingness may indicate an inflexible employer.  While such a discovery may be disheartening, this information is invaluable upfront – before the contract is signed – for ultimately determining which employer will be the best fit.  The negotiation process will also allow your prospective employer to know what areas are not negotiable for you; what areas you are willing to make sacrifices; and what areas you expect greater benefits for those sacrifices.  This contract will govern the relationship, it is important that everyone has a full understanding of what the full agreement entails before both parties sign.

Defining the terms

While negotiating an employment agreement may appear stressful at first blush, it is an exciting time.  All of your hard work is paying off and you are being treated as a peer.  You are being given the opportunity to have a discussion with your future employer about the terms of your employment.  This is an opportunity many people are not granted.  It is important that you fully embrace this opportunity and help create the best terms that will be beneficial to you and the best terms which will create an excellent employment experience in the coming years.