The pandemic has presented unique challenges to physicians and their employers. Slackened clinical-service demand has led to financial distress for hospitals and practices. And on the frontline of care, doctors navigate the risks and burnout of caring for COVID-19 patients. Both may drive doctors to seek employment elsewhere.
In a guidance document titled, Knowing Your Rights: Navigating Physician Employment During COVID-19, the AMA wrote: “In the midst of the COVID-19 emergency, many hospitals, health systems and other employers are making difficult decisions regarding whether to modify or sever existing employment or service arrangements with employees, including physicians.”
If you're among those doctors seeking a new job, there's much to consider. Failure to ask the right questions, research prospective communities, and scrutinize a new contract can lead to unhappiness for you and your family, and unintended consequences for your earnings and career. Here are some important considerations for physicians weighing a job search, based on information gleaned from the AMA and other healthcare sources.
When considering a job switch, imagine what you want to be doing in 5 to 10 years. Your job should fit your desired career trajectory. Ask potential employers about opportunities for advancement. If interested in research, teaching, or leadership opportunities, ask about whether the employer dedicates time and funds to these activities. Negotiate for the opportunities that you need.
For younger physicians, mentorship is important. Ask potential employers whether they offer mentorship opportunities with senior attending physicians.
Keep in mind that in order to grow in a new role, the financial security of the institution is imperative. Ask about the patient population, referral sources, business model, and the organization’s financial stability.
You don’t have to be best friends with all of your colleagues, but you do have to get along. You will be spending a lot of time together, at work and at work functions. You will also be covering their calls and vacations. Determine how cooperative and collaborative others are at the practice. Gauge whether other physicians have developed fruitful relationships or whether things have soured.
Another key factor is the administrative and support staff. Are they efficient, professional, and cooperative?
One big concern is blame. Will you be held responsible for longer wait times out of your control, fewer billable procedures logged, and daily patient visits? Ask about such penalties.
When you aren’t hard at work seeing patients, you will be living in a community near your employer. Evaluate whether the prospective community fits your needs and desires. Are there safe neighborhoods and desirable housing options? Are there good schools? Are there stores you like and restaurants to frequent? Is there a local sports team to cheer on or museums to visit?
In addition to performing internet searches and asking around, spend a day or two in the community before a new job offer. Imagine whether the environment is somewhere you could see you and your family growing and thriving. If you are considering relocating, check out Best states to practice medicine.
Read the fine print when signing a contract for employment. For instance, these contracts may specify that you need to meet certain benchmarks for pay based on productivity. There may also be non-compete clauses that preclude you from working in the area for a certain period of time if you leave your job. Make sure that you are comfortable with these terms before signing.
It may be worth having a lawyer review your contract.
Switching jobs has associated costs. Estimate these costs and make sure that they are manageable before you make the move. For instance, if a new job requires relocation, then purchasing a home with all its associated costs, such as repairs, may be a consideration. You can learn about which states have the highest physician salaries here.
Other issues include out-of-pocket expenses for insurance coverage. Of course, there may be a lag between when an old job ends and a new job begins, which involves loss of income. Maybe this transition has you thinking you need a personal financial plan? If so, read about six financial lessons that can benefit doctors on our PhysicianSense blog.
Transitioning into a new job may require learning new skills, which can take time. For instance, you will likely need to master a new EMR. You will also have to repeat online HIPAA training modules. Finally, the new environment will come with new colleagues, new protocols, and new regulations.
If you’ve laid down roots in your community, switching jobs and moving elsewhere may come with certain social costs. You may be leaving your friends and family. Furthermore, kids will have to uproot, leave their schools, and friends. Carefully consider whether this disruption to social life is worth the opportunity of switching jobs.
MDLinx | September 30, 2021