Landing a Doctor Job: How to Compare Positions for Physicians

Are you actively looking for a job as a physician? The fall is a good time to be looking, as final-year residents and fellows are actively interviewing for their first attending positions, just as medical students are beginning to interview for residency slots.

When evaluating different jobs, there are so many factors to consider. It’s not just the job and the contract, but also the place and the circumstances. If you’re not single, you’ve also got one or several more people whose opinions will matter.

This guest post on landing a doctor job comes from Jon Appino, a man who has reviewed many thousands of physician contracts. His company, Contract Diagnostics has been a supporter and friend of the blog for over three years, and they’ve had many satisfied clients.

Having perused all of those contracts and spoken with thousands of physicians, he’s got a pretty good idea of what you should be looking for in a position. Take it away, Jon!

 

Landing a Doctor Job: How to Compare Positions for Physicians

 

For most people, looking for that first job wasn’t very challenging. The main questions were usually, Are they hiring? Will they hire me? When do I get paid?

Once you make it out of your residency, however, it becomes more complicated. It doesn’t get any easier for subsequent contracts.

The list of factors needing consideration becomes long and distinguished. How do you sift through all the details? How do you choose between two or more job offers? What do you do when it looks like you’re comparing apples to oranges?

Finding contentment and satisfaction in your career is difficult if not impossible if you haven’t really determined what is most important to you. No chart or list of factors will help if you don’t have something to match it up against. So that is where you need to begin.

What is important to you? Money? Family? Your social life? Also, keep in mind that what is important to you now may change as the seasons of your life do. Someone young and single may have different priorities than someone who is married with children.

What are your career goals? Your life goals? Where do you picture yourself in a year, 5 years, 10 years, retired? Having an idea about where you want to be in the future will make it so much easier to determine which opportunity will help you get there.

If you haven’t already, you may want to start writing all this down.

 

Determining What’s Important To You

 

What are your goals, preferences, and passions when it comes to the following life areas? Think about what you would like now as well as what you think you would like in the future. Be as specific as you can while allowing some flexibility to change course if necessary. Life has a tendency to introduce events and information that cause us to pause, reevaluate priorities and what we value.

  • Financial
  • Professional
  • Personal satisfaction
  • Family
  • Social
  • Personal
  • Spiritual/Character/Values
  • Community (where you live)

You will also want to prioritize this list, as well as within each category, as you go along. This will give you something with which to compare each factor you consider. This is your compass.

Once you know where you want to be and what is important to you, it will be easier to navigate the path to it. You just need to ask yourself, Will this help me get to my destination in the way that I want to get there without jeopardizing any of my values or other goals?

So, what is more important to you? How do you even begin to prioritize a list like the categories above let alone all the factors within each one? The simplest way is to take two, then ask yourself, If I were forced to choose one over the other, I would pick…

 

 

Financial vs. Professional Goals

 

You might think they are the same thing, or at least really close, but there are some definite differences. There are some professionally rewarding positions that don’t pay extremely well. What holds more weight for you? The financial aspect of your work or the professional aspect?

If you had to choose between one or the other, which one would win out? Keep in mind that it is possible to achieve high goals in both, but we’re just trying to prioritize a list.

Ask that same question with Family and compare it to each of the first two separately. Again, you aren’t completely losing one. They all may rank high in importance to you.

You just need something to help you make career decisions based on what you value in addition to your current life situation. Someone who is single may need to consider a spouse and children later, but for now, they have more freedom in their decision making.

You should always reevaluate the priority ranking of your list any time you have a career decision to make. Once you have the main categories nailed down, you can identify all the potential factors within each. Your list may look like this.

  • Spiritual/Character/Values
  • Professional
  • Family
  • Personal satisfaction
  • Financial
  • Personal
  • Community
  • Social

An added bonus of prioritizing the factors that pertain to you is that it no longer matters if you are comparing apples to oranges—or even bananas. At this point, you are no longer comparing one job or choice to another; you are comparing each to your personalized list of what is important to you.

 

 

All Things Considered

 

Within each of the main categories already discussed, there are numerous factors to consider. Below, in no particular order, are a few to help you get started. Feel free to add any others that fit your particular situation and to set aside any that don’t.

Keep in mind that each opportunity brings with it its own list of good and bad aspects. It will be up to you to determine what you may be willing to put up within the short-term to gain a long-term benefit. Just focus on the ones that are relevant to you.

 

  • Salary-both now and future expectations
  • Is there a sign-on bonus?
  • Benefits package, both now and future expectations (medical, retirement, paid days off)
  • Other insurance like malpractice
  • Other company perks
  • Company/workplace culture
  • Opportunity for growth or improvement in any or all factors
  • Temporary negatives vs long-term positives
  • Long-term career goals
  • Short- and long-term life goals
  • 1099 and taxes if you are considered a contractor, not an employee
  • Expected work schedule
  • Expected call burden and whether it’s capped
  • Schedule and number of hours per day or week
  • Location, ease of commute
  • Close to family and friends
  • Close to places you would frequent (schools, religious centers, recreation venues)
  • Happiness or satisfaction, that “end of the day” feeling. Do you feel valued or burned out?
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Advancement opportunities
  • How does it align with your goals?
  • What does a typical day look like?
  • Rapport with prospective peers and boss
  • Company/employer values and reputation
  • Your overall impressions
  • Will it help you in your long-term career goals?

 

If an opportunity requires a move, you might also want to look at things like:

  • Weather
  • Cost of living
  • Neighborhoods
  • Moving costs—are they paid for?

A point system can be helpful if you have a lot of relevant factors to consider. Just take note of any low scores and whether or not they would have a higher score later on.

 

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The Devil’s in The Contract Details

 

Contracts can be good, and they can be not so good. Always have them looked over by someone with experience in reviewing contracts and who understands your field or specialty.  Even ‘standard’ agreements need to be reviewed so you know what you are signing and what questions you should ask (it’s not always ‘negotiating’ but often ‘clarifying’).

However, a good contract does not guarantee that you’ll have a good employer, and a bad contract can sometimes surprise you with a good long term situation. Negotiate when possible, clarify always, and refer to your internal standard when you need to make a decision.

 

Additional Bits of Advice

 

When possible, seek out recommendations. Contact friends and acquaintances in your field, and ask them about places that might fit your criteria.

Visit the location a few times to get a feel for the culture of the place.

Look outside your training program for job opportunities. It may seem easy to just sign up with what is available, but it most likely won’t live up to what is really important to you. If that’s the case, dissatisfaction will set in quickly.

Think through a backup plan just in case it doesn’t work out. Having a good game plan can maintain your confidence if you need to unexpectedly switch gears.

Trust your gut. Look for red flags and anything that seems “off.” If it just doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to walk away. You’re highly trained and skilled, and you’re an asset to the marketplace. You’ll find a good fit.

 

For a free 15-minute consultation to help you think it through all these things, feel free to contact Contract Diagnostics.

 

 

What do you consider to be the key factors when evaluating a position? Have you been burned by false promises or a bad contract? Share your top tips below!

3 comments

  • I had a much odder path to my current job than most and truly lucked into a great practice.

    Traditionally you find a job, hopefully figure out you want to stay after a couple of years (preferably renting during this time) and then buy a “forever” home.

    I on the other hand found an out of state home on eBay of all places which I fell in love with and bought 1 week later without finding a job first.

    I then began my job search and was fortunate to find and be interviewed at 5 places and actually offered a position at all 5.

    I had the opportunity to make more money (to the tune of about $150k more/yr) but instead chose lifestyle over money (one of the smartest decisions I ever made) and got a beauty of a job where I only had to work 830-5p Monday through Friday with no weekend and no call whatsoever (I have since reduced this to 4 days a week).

    And as for that money difference? As my current practice grew leaps and bounds (courtesy of the multi group specialty Outpatient clinic growing (to now about 70 docs), my income grew as well and I think I am actually outpacing the other practices now if I had chosen them instead (so truly a win win).

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  • Pedipod

    I think the most valuable part of this summary is the last paragraph and the suggestion to trust your gut. It’s hard to say why the gut can feel things out sometimes, but it definitely seems like it can. The same paragraph suggests looking for red flags rather than assuming you will see them, more great advice. Some folks have learned the hard way.

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