Physicians devote a tremendous amount of time and energy to their work, often without fairly valued compensation. As such, doctors often find themselves in the awkward situation of having to ask for a salary increase. When determining what they deem to be an appropriate salary, employers consider many factors. Everything from a healthcare organization’s regulatory changes to its financial performance plays a role in determining a doctor’s salary.

According to the founder of United Medical Education, Brian Clark, it is crucial that physicians arm themselves with an arsenal of carefully researched data to support their salary increase request, as obtaining a “yes” from employers is often a delicate matter. Clark suggests that physicians research customary pay levels for their specific specialty and geographic location using such websites as or Glassdoor. Doing so gives doctors a leg to stand on in negotiations, as data-backed arguments hold more water. This applies to personal data as well, such as how a physician has added value to their healthcare organization via factors like patient satisfaction scores and revenue generated. While it’s important to speak their minds with confidence, Clark urges doctors to remember that it would behoove them to remain open-minded, perhaps considering alternative compensation structures, such as performance bonuses, which may ultimately benefit both parties.

Lisa McDonald, the president and founder of Colorado-based recruiting and practice consulting firm Integrated Connections, echoes Clark’s thoughts on keeping an open mind and on the importance of thoroughly researching a reasonable market-based, specialty-specific salary request. McDonald encourages physicians to get creative with a bonus plan. For example, if a doctor is paid on a production-based income (vs a straight salary), requesting to rework the bonus plan in lieu of a base salary raise may be a more optimal option. McDonald also suggests that physicians gain a grasp of their employer’s revenue streams, business model, and pay structure, along with an understanding of any overhead tied to funding the organization or employing doctors. In other words, physicians would benefit from realizing their value to their employer. When it comes to the salary amount of a requested raise, Clark suggests that physicians be very specific with both the amount requested and why they chose that number. This is where supporting data comes in handy.

Another key element to requesting a pay raise is determining the optimal time for a physician to bring up the topic to their employer. According to Eric Passon, founder and CEO of Tennessee-based Ancore Health, asking for a pay increase at a moment when their employer is most receptive is ideal for physicians. For instance, bringing it up shortly following a successful surgery may be wise. On the other hand, there are good times to avoid the topic as well. For example, asking at a time when the healthcare organization is struggling financially would not be prudent.

Solid negotiating skills are key for physicians to achieve their desired pay raise agreement. Brian Gans, MD, of Phoenix-based St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center suggests improving negotiation skills by reading books such as Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz, which discusses the benefits of using such strategies as tactical empathy. This tactic can allow physicians to use empathy throughout negotiations, thereby exhibiting and respect for and understanding of their employer’s point of view. Tactical empathy shows employers that physicians are approaching the negotiation with a cooperative mindset, leading to a collaborative rapport.

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Physician’s Weekly | October 17, 2023

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