Count contracts among the top things you want to get right, or as close to right, as you can before you sign on the dotted line.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
You should receive a copy of the employment contract either at the same time the offer is extended to you or shortly thereafter. NEVER, EVER accept an offer until you have had time to fully review the contract. In my experience, it is not so much that NPs and PAs regret the items they agreed to in their contracts as much as they lament what they neglected to include.
A typical contract is 1-2 pages and commonly uses boilerplate language. It is sort of a one-size-fits-all form where the employer fills in the proposed pay rate, whether employment is full time or part time and a general description of benefits. Many may also include a non-compete of some sort.
THE BALL IS IN YOUR COURT
Upon receipt and review of the contract you can either 1. accept it, 2. reject it, or 3. negotiate the terms. Life is easy if you just sign it, which is what the employer is hoping. And to be honest, quite a few of us feel just a little intimidated and so we close our eyes, hope for the best and comply. Why? One reason is because we lack the training on employment contracts. This is especially true for the new graduate NPor PA who has no prior experience in contracting and feels unsure about what is appropriate or how to respond. It can also be a little intoxicating to receive that first job offer. I often compare it to a marriage proposal in which we are so flattered that we just say “yes” before thinking it fully through.
Contracts needn’t be “standardized”. It’s your prerogative to negotiate and you can choose to include anything that is important to you. In addition a wise NP or PA will clarify any points that they find to be murky or lead to possible confusion down the line. So, rather than just signing as is use the option to add or delete information and send the edited the contract back. That’s called negotiation.
*Note – etiquette dictates that you submit a counter offer only once. Employers have little appetite for a prolonged back and forth so you need to carefully think through your response. In other words, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are countering your counter. Know your bottom line and leave it at that.
WHAT TO INCLUDE
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a handy checklist of items so you could more fully evaluate a proposed employment contract? I want to share with you a reference that is the most comprehensive list for contract negotiation that I have come across. It is identified as a “sample NP contract” but would work nicely for a PA as well. Click here
The only thing I disagree with in this sample contract is the term length. The sample utilizes a term of 5 years. That’s an awful long time to commit to a new relationship! I suggest a shorter term of 1-2 years. Healthcare is changing rapidly and a shorter term gives you the chance to renegotiate sooner.
If you need more explanation on how healthcare changes can impact your employment please read my article “Contracts:Avoiding the Wrong Regrets”