How Should a Resident Physician Look for a Job? | Medical Residency
How should resident physicians look for a job? Literally what steps should they take to find a position they’ll be satisfied with. The timing certainly is important. Most physicians generally start looking for positions early in their PGY-3 year. Some specialties will even sign contracts in their PGY-2 year if they’re not going into fellowship. If a physician is moving from residency into fellowship, they usually won’t start looking until the end of their last year of residency, or maybe it’s a multiple-year fellowship. Maybe at the beginning of the last year of their fellowship as well. There are several ways physicians can find jobs.
How Physicians In Residency Can Look For A Job
The easiest way I’ve found is through colleagues. If you’ve trained with somebody, usually, they’ll know of, a place that’s recruiting, or maybe they joined a practice. And they say, it’s a great environment that we’re looking to add another physician in a specialty. Maybe you should look at it. Now, that can vary wildly in location, and location is very important to some, while not important to others. So, it can go all over the place if you’re getting some leads from fellow residents or fellows. One way is to talk to colleagues, mentors, or other people you’ve met in training. And that’s also a great way of determining the market value at the time. The MGMA data is like an annual physician compensation survey across the nations broken up into geography, specialty, and physician-owned versus hospital-based physicians. In some specialties, the sample size is so tiny.
I don’t think it’s a great tool. Other specialties can usually be a pretty good gauge if there are hundreds and hundreds of responses. I don’t think any physician should base a job search solely on compensation. I think that’s shortsighted. Anyone coming out of training needs to be in an environment where they can learn. Or they’re going to have mentors where they’ll feel safe, where they’ll have an opportunity to grow.
I often see it, especially in rural environments, where they need a specialty. They’re willing to throw a bunch of cash at somebody. But they’ll be the only ones in their specialty out there. Like there’ll be no others, no one to learn from, to train with, to pick someone’s brain, at least locally. Those scenarios are tough. Some physicians can thrive in that environment, but it’s more complicated for others. So, I think they need to consider that.
Physician Employment Recruiters
Any physician contract is going to have without-cause termination. If a physician is unhappy in their practice, they just provide usually, 60- or 90-days’ notice. And they can move on. Even if you’re in a job at the beginning, you’re not stuck there forever. You can find something better. I mean, I find a lot of physicians coming out of residency or fellowship will take the first job. And then they’d say, alright, now I know what I don’t want. So, they can look for work more appropriate to the practice they’re looking for.
Another way is through physician recruiters. There are two types of them. You have in-house recruiters. Many big hospital networks employ physician recruiters who go out to different residency programs. Maybe there’s a job fair, something like that. Or they’ll specifically reach out to people in training, saying, hey, I have this opportunity in this place. Would you be interested? They’re free to physicians. You do not have to pay the recruiter or anything. The employer is the one that pays the recruitment fees.
So, physician recruiters. Both in-house and those that are just a private group where they just go out and broker these deals. Typically, they would get a percentage of the first-year salary of the physician, or maybe a flat fee. Something like that. But there’s absolutely no harm in discussing positions with recruiters. It’s a usual way of doing business nowadays. They usually have their ear to the ground and know many different opportunities that could be exciting for physicians.
Physician Job Search
Another way if you have a specific region in mind. Is just doing job searches for practices in your specialty in one specific area. Most places will have job posts on regular job sites if they’re looking. Then you can search for those in the city you want, find that and contact them from their work listing.
That’s another way. So, those are the three biggest ways. Word of mouth through colleagues, doing it through a physician recruiter, or searching in specific cities through job search websites. Now, for those who are maybe J-1 or something like that, that’s like an entirely different kind of job search. And I can do a separate video about that. But this is more geared towards those looking for the normal position just coming out of training.
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When Should a Physician Resident Start Looking for a Job?
When should resident physicians start looking for jobs? This is a complicated question. First, I do contract reviews daily for physicians. Many are individuals getting their first jobs who’ve never had an employment contract before. They’re either in their last year of residency or fellowship and have an offer they want me to review. There are occasions where there’s a multiple-year fellowship, maybe a PGY-2 or something like that. Wherein residents already have an offer that won’t begin for two years and want me to look at, as well.
Search for a Residency Job
Let me give some words of wisdom, just from doing this for a couple of decades now. One, if you are a resident or a fellow. You know where you need to be geographically. Maybe you have to move home, or you have a significant other completing trading themselves elsewhere. Want to move close to your family, whatever it is. If you have a pinpoint location in mind, getting started sooner than later is probably a good idea. Start looking for work when you still have two years left in training. Think of it from an employer’s perspective. Some employers don’t have immediate needs for physicians, right? So, if they are well run, they’ll have financial forecasts.
Forecasts as far as the patient load will be, perhaps the practice is expanding and opening a new office. But they’re not going to open it for a year. I guess I’m saying that employers know that they’d have a need for a physician. But sometimes, it’s not for a couple of years. That’s why an employer will start looking immediately for a position that’s not immediately available. Once they get out there and see some candidates, even if that candidate has two years left in training. It’s not uncommon for them to offer them a position and make them sign an employment contract. One benefit of looking early is simply getting in before someone else takes the part. So the earlier you look at the job, the more likely you’d have a chance to get it. If that makes sense.
If You Take a Practice Early
Next, the downsides of going early. What’s the negative part of finding a position far out from when medical residents have completed training? Suppose you sign an employment agreement that doesn’t commence for two years. And then you have some change in the family. Maybe the significant other that was supposed to move to one city is now moving to another. Or there’s a sickness in the family. There are a million reasons why a location is perfect at one point, and two years later, it’s not. The downside of signing early is that things may change in your life, but you have signed the employment agreement. Then it gets into: how can I terminate this agreement even before I’ve started? Are there any penalties associated with it? Some contracts have built in that if the physician doesn’t start, they will owe some penalty.
Which Year to Start the Job Search?
I would suggest. Before signing an agreement with that kind of language, probably get it reviewed by someone to go over the ramifications. What happens if I sign the agreement, I either can’t start or don’t want to start. And then need to get out of the contract? Another possibility is you sign early, and then you get a better offer. So maybe it’s just a better opportunity for you. The compensation is more. The benefits are better. The concern is that if you sign a contractor early, you’re foregoing any potential opportunities down the road. Now, some employers are okay with letting someone out with enough notice.
The contract will have a notice requirement, but if you haven’t even started, most employers are understanding. If there is some actual change in family circumstances. They’re not as forgiving if it’s just simply, this person is paying me more than you. I don’t want to complete the terms of this agreement. Once the contract is signed, the employer relies upon you to start, so they will stop recruiting anyone else. They’re going to make plans to either bring in more patient volume. Or maybe the office they’re opening up is contingent upon you being there.
Where Residents Should be Looking
So, I guess there are problems for both sides if the physician doesn’t want to start. The employer could have some damages associated with the physician not completing the terms of the agreement. Overall, I’d say the sooner, the better to start looking. However, taking the first offer and signing an employment agreement without comparing different bids is a bad idea. There are almost always multiple opportunities for somebody. Just to accept the first one just because they are the first doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. So I’d suggest you look at multiple offers, gauge the compensation structure amongst them, and then go from there.
When Should a Resident Receive a Signing Bonus?
When should a medical resident receive a signing bonus? The timing of it is essential. When medical residents finish training, they have likely already signed an employment contract. More importantly, when negotiating the contract, usually in their early PGY-3 year, some PGY-2. When they receive the signing bonus is crucial for a couple of factors. One, as physicians in residency, don’t make much money. Say they’re training in New York and get a work in California. Depending on their family size, it could be a substantial amount of money to move across the country.
Now, almost every employer someone signs with as a resident will offer relocation assistance. Usually, between $5,000 to $15,000. You won’t see above $15,000 as far as relocation assistance goes. Somewhere along there, they should pay for the entire amount, to be honest. And some people moving a short distance can also use the relocation assistance money for traveling back to the city. To look for an apartment or a home. So, airline lodging, all that kind of stuff. Some people could use that money for a security deposit or maybe the first couple of months’ rent. Most employers are flexible in what the physician can use that money for. But they want it to be housing-related or relocation-related in some manner.
Negotiate To Get The Amount of Signing Bonus You Need
Now, the timing of when you get paid is important. Usually, the physician will receive different offer bonuses. One would be the relocation assistance as I said before, somewhere between 5,000 to 15,000. And also, a signing bonus is usually paid out during their first pay period. Whenever they get paid first after they start with the employer, that’s when they would receive the bonus. There’s a different way of doing it. Often employers will say, unless it’s a big hospital network that has established relationships with moving companies. Let’s say you’re running a private practice. They’ll say, pay your moving expenses, submit us the receipts, and then we’ll reimburse you. Well, for some people, outlying $10,000 to $15,000 to move is difficult. Simply because, as I said before, you’re not a wealthy doctor when you’re still in training.
So, we assess the situation for physicians and determine if it is helpful if you get this prior to moving. How soon before you complete training do you need the money? We can say to the employer, “Hey, look. It will help us defray the cost of the move if we receive this before moving.” Or, more importantly, maybe the employer would be willing to pay the amount directly to the moving company. In that way, there’s no cash outlay by physicians, which is the entire point of that. The signing bonus also. The timing of when the employer pays it can be essential as well. Depending upon the size of the signing bonus, we could say, we would like half upon execution of the agreement.
Discuss Resident Physician Repayment Obligations
So, when you sign the actual agreement, and both parties sign it, that’s called the execution of the contract. Many times, we could say, we’ll get half upon signing. And then the other half when they start. Both bonuses will have a repayment obligation tied to them. At least it usually would. This means that, let’s say physicians have an initial two-year term. The employer states, you’ll owe us a prorated portion of the bonuses if you leave before the initial two-year term. It could be quarterly forgiveness, monthly forgiveness, or yearly forgiveness. Let’s say someone has a $30,000 signing bonus. They say, alright, half of it is forgiven after the first year. And the other half is forgiven after the second year.
So, if the physician left between the first and second year, they owe back $15,000. So, the employer is insulated from the physician, simply taking the bonuses early. And then, splitting out on the job by signing the agreement in advance. There’ll be language in there that talks about the repayment obligations. If the employer is expressing concerns about that. Or maybe they just don’t utilize that. That would be a good way of saying, look, if you’re concerned about me, just take the money, and leave.
Then let’s put in these repayment obligations and therefore, you’re protected if I were to leave. And I benefit by getting the money in advance. So, that’s a discussion of when physicians in residency should receive the signing bonus or relocation assistance. It’s just dependent upon the situation for some people. It’s fine receiving it after the fact. But for others, it’s important to have it up front—just some things to think about.
How Much are Resident Physician Salaries?
One question med students have is the average salary for resident physicians. After physicians graduate from medical school, they move on to an internship or residency within their specialty. Then get paid. But for most of them, it’s simply not even remotely enough for the work that they’re doing. So, it’s not uncommon for medical residents to work 70- or 80-hour weeks. The average salary for medical residents in the United States is around $63,000. Maybe you’re a resident right now, thinking, I don’t even make close to that, or maybe I make more. This is average across all specialties. Some specialties will make a little bit more than others.
Some could be as high as the 60s. Whereas maybe in family medicine, you could be about 50s. Can a resident negotiate their salary during training? No, they have no leverage. Anytime you’re negotiating a contract, you base it upon leverage. Even those medical residents coming out of training and moving on to their first employed work don’t have much leverage. They only have leverage in those situations if they’re in a needed specialty. Or two, if they’re willing to go to an under-served geographic area and need physicians.
So, around 63,000 is the medical resident salary. If you think of it this way, if they work 70 to 80 hours a week, they’re making about $15 hourly. And providing care as a doctor for $15 an hour. Now, once they move out of training, the salary increases substantially. And for some specialties could be an eight-fold increase, at least just coming out. But that’s what it is. One consideration we make when reviewing and negotiating the resident or fellow’s first contract. Most of them don’t have much money coming out of training.
Importance of Relocation Assistance Signing Bonus
So, suppose the new employer is offering a signing bonus or relocation assistance. In that case, we want to ensure they’re getting a chunk of that before moving and starting the new job. Wherever, if they are moving from where they’re currently training. Simply most medical residents, especially if they have family, maybe the only breadwinner. At that point, they don’t have $10,000 to $15,000 if they’re making a cross-country move. So, we need to ensure that either the employers pay their moving costs directly to the moving company. Or they’re going to front the money before physicians need to spend it on the move.
In that way, they don’t have to outlay a ton of cash. Because it certainly is expensive moving from one place to an entirely different one. Medical residents certainly are underpaid. Unfortunately, it’s part of the process they must go through to be fairly compensated for the services they provide. But it’s just tough when you’re making that little. And I think the average physician has about. I think 47% of physicians have student loans over $200,000. It could be a big burden.
What to Know Before Signing Your First Physician Contract
What should you know before you sign your first physician employment contract? This question is a broad topic, but we’re going to hit the main areas, things to think about before signing your first employment agreement.
Ways to Determine if Compensations Offered Are of Fair Market Value
First, determine whether the compensation you’re being offered is fair market value. There are a couple of, I guess, good ways of going about trying to find that. Well, the MGMA, the medical group management association, collects annual salary data from across the country. If you can access that, they have a lot of good information about total compensation, average net-collections, and average RVUs generated by specialty. It’s hard to get that info sometimes.
I mean, if you Google around, you might be able to find some of the compensation data that’s a couple of years old. Or you can talk to someone who has access to the data, like for our firm, we have access to the data. So, we can tell the physicians exactly what the numbers say. Now, that’s certainly not the be-all-end-all. There are other services out there that offer something similar. But I also think it’s limited because some specialties have a tiny sample size. In addition, just total compensation should not be the determining factor when looking for jobs. Alright, so that’s compensation.
Another way of thinking about it would be, if you have classmates in your training program, you need to ask them what they’re receiving. It’s going to vary based upon geography and then setting. Are they going into a hospital network? Are they going into the federal facility? Or are they going into private practice in some way? It is good to speak to people you train with to see what they’re being offered. And then mentors are another excellent place.
How To Terminate Contracts
If someone is already out and maybe they’ve been a teacher for you or a mentor, ask them if they’re willing to talk about the type of compensation they’re receiving. Next would be how to terminate the agreement. Something you need to consider. There are four ways to terminate a contract if the initial term ends. Let’s say you have a two-year contract, and no language states it automatically renews. It just ends, and the contract terminates. You can complete a contract by mutual agreement. Then you can also terminate a contract with-cause. So if one of the parties breaches the contract, either party can terminate the contract if the other party doesn’t fix the breach. It’s called cure. And then lastly, and this is what I want to hit on, is without-cause termination.
Every contract you sign must have without-cause termination in it. There are minimal circumstances where no without-cause termination would be okay. If you’re a J-1, that one would probably benefit you not to have that in there. But without-cause termination means you can terminate the contract at any point, for any reason, with a certain amount of notice to the other party. Contracts that don’t have without-cause termination, meaning you must work out whatever the initial term is. There’s no way of terminating the contract for any reason. They would have to breach it if you wanted to get out of it.
Why Do I Need No Cause Termination on My Contract?
The reason why you need that is, let’s say you start with the job, you’re paid on productivity, and the volume is not there. It’s not your fault, or maybe the employer brought you in telling you it was going to be one way, and the call is just excessive. Or perhaps it’s just a terrible personality fit; whatever reason you’re not happy in that job, you need the ability to get out of it if you want. So, it would be best if you had without-cause termination in the contract. Somewhere between 60 to 90 days is standard for physicians.
Legal Mistakes Physicians Make Are Not Going Through Non-compete
Alright, next, the non-compete. A non-compete says physicians can’t work after the contract terminates for a period within a specific area. For example, most non-competes are one year, sometimes up to two.
And then, a reasonable mileage would be 10 to 15 miles from your primary practice location. Often, the employer will try to tag multiple locations. So, maybe if you worked in three outpatient clinics in a hospital or something. They try to attach it to all four of those, or perhaps the employer has many facilities in the area. You’ve only worked at one of them, and they might attach it to all the medical facilities they own. That’s not fair either. You want to try to get it to one year, 10 to 15 miles from maybe at most two locations. Anything beyond that would be considered unreasonable. There are a few states where it’s entirely unenforceable to have a non-compete. But for the most part, most states allow non-competes for physicians.
Health Care Malpractice Insurance, Do Not Practice-Without It
Lastly, with medical malpractice insurance, the employer should almost always pay for your underlying annual premium. How much they must pay each year to insure you. Depending upon the policy, whether claims-made or occurrence-based approach, it will determine if you must pay what’s called tail insurance.
If it’s a claims-made policy, tail insurance is necessary. A good rule of thumb is that tail insurance costs about twice your annual premium. In some specialties, it can be costly. OB-GYN, some of the higher-level surgical things could have tails that are fifty to a hundred thousand dollars. You want to avoid having to pay for that. So, make sure that there’s either a fair split between the employee and employer. Or having the employer pay the total cost of the tail insurance. There’s also medical insurance called occurrence-based coverage. And in that scenario, tail insurance is not needed at all. It’s about a third more expensive than claims-made, but you won’t have to pay for tail insurance in that scenario.
Now, you probably need to think about dozens of other things. I would say, in my mind, those are probably the foremost important. But you have benefits, bonus structure, contract length, other restrictive covenants with the non-solicitation agreement. Non-disparagement, confidentiality, your hours worked, and the call. I mean, you need to think about a ton of things. So, I would suggest reaching out to someone with experience reviewing contracts. When you’re signing a contract that could be worth a million dollars, at least in my opinion. It would be foolish not to get it looked at by someone who knows what they’re doing.
Physician Contract Questions?
Contract Review, Termination Issues and more!