5 Tips in Understanding Your Residency Employment Contract

5 Tips in Understanding Your Residency Employment Contract

Jul 24, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

Table of Contents

When freshly minted medical school graduates receive their Match for residency, almost everyone would assume that the entire four to five years of their residency training would be a guarantee and it’s all up to their skills and dedication to survive. Not to mention that there’s a significant eagerness of students to sign their own Graduate Medical Education resident employment contracts as soon as possible.

There’s always the common perspective of assuming that programs that are accredited to give residency positions follow all the rules and regulations set by the appropriate medical institutions and organizations even if students are not exactly familiar with them. Considering that teaching hospitals and universities carry out the responsibility of training their residents which comes with certain investments and risks, these institutions expect levels of commitment to their current and future residents. With that, institutions would instill policies in the form of employment contracts.

In turn, you have the responsibility of responding to the said contracts. It’s absolutely crucial for you to be able to completely understand the GME policies on your resident employment contract. While most residents would go on to their residency programs without any contract-related hitch, you can never be too safe. Because what you don’t know may hurt your career.

Contracts can be hard to understand whether you’re looking for employment in different setups, a physician needs to understand its content so they’ll have the full understanding of their privileges and responsibility as well as have the ability to discuss options. Here are some helpful tips in understanding your residency employment contract:

1. Know what they look like with model contracts

Before you sign the real deal, you should at least have the basic knowledge and familiarity of what your GME employment contract looks like.

There are a lot of online resources that could help you out to become familiar with your employment agreements. The Annotated Model Physician-Group Practice Employment Agreement and Annotated Model Physician-Hospital Employment Agreements are just two of many model contracts that will teach you how to read and understand your contracts as well as explain the business and/or legal consequences of contracts.

Cross-reference it with your own GME contract which your institution would likely send you a sample contract for you to review it ahead of time. Remembering a few basics in reviewing your contracts will help you in the process of your residency.

2. Know your responsibilities and obligations

A well-written contract should include a complete and detailed description of your job description and obligations. This will serve as your guide when it comes to your work and as well as protection from any labor mishaps or abuse.

Your contract should include the basic information like the type of medicine you’ll practice, expected hours of work, on-call hours and availability, your patient care duties, and administrative duties if applicable. While it seems like a basic thing to look out for, knowing and understanding your responsibilities and obligations as a resident and as an employee is one of the key things for your residency to be successful.

3. Have a complete understanding of your salary and compensation

Don’t let money talk become taboo because you’re afraid to be too upfront about it with your employer. Your road to residency isn’t exactly a cheap one and with the amount that you’ve invested in your medical career, it’s only fitting that you get just compensation for your work.

There are a couple of things to look out for when it comes to your salary. First is to check which kind of compensation model your contract executes. It could be either fixed compensation or variable compensation. For fixed compensation, your salary doesn’t depend on your performance. This model is usually used for new physicians like you. When it comes to variable compensation, this model uses certain formulas to determine a physician’s salary based on their performance. This is usually used for salaries of more experienced physicians.

The second thing that you should keep in mind is the market and how your skills are usually compensated. Be familiar with the median salary range for your specialty in your location before agreeing to any kind of contract. This is one of the things that you could do to determine if your employer is being fair when it comes to payment.

The last thing that you should look out for is salary-performance ties. Clarify with your employer if they’re expecting you to reach a certain benchmark or quota to be able to get a full salary. Whether it’s the billings and collections, patient visits, or productivity.

In addition to your basic salary, knowing your benefits package is also important since these benefits could add a significant amount to your compensation. Examples of these benefits could be liability insurance, payment of your licensing fees and dues, time off, and even payment of student loans.

4. Get everything in writing

Remember that when signing a contract, what you see is what you get. It doesn’t matter if your employer promises extended benefits or an increase in salary within a certain period. If it isn’t on paper, then the offer doesn’t stand.

Be wary of certain language and choice of words that your contract exhibits that may become problematic in the future. If you don’t fully understand it, then don’t sign it yet until you’ve clarified everything.

Having every single agreement and offer on writing will significantly reduce any potential for misunderstandings and mistakes between you and your employer.

5. When in doubt, consult legal help

This might be an additional cost to you but the consequences of signing a contract that you don’t fully understand and is questionable are much more damaging to you and your career. You don’t have to hire an expensive lawyer from a firm for this, you just have to look for the local legal resources that might help you. Contact your state attorney that’s experienced in health care or even your state medical society might provide you with recommendations. Identifying and fixing problematic provisions in your contract before it lands a huge impact on your career is absolutely crucial.