How Much Should a Veterinarian get for CME Expenses? | Veterinary Cost
In a veterinarian employment agreement, should a veterinarian receive reimbursement for their CME or continuing their education? The answer is yes, they should. If they’re considered an employee, this is one of those business expenses that they should be reimbursed for as offered as a professional benefit for the vet. This typically looks like an employment contract. You’re normally given some type of, we call it CME or CE allowance, and it’s an annual amount that you can receive. Sometimes it’s just paid directly to you, sometimes most likely it’s reimbursement. But how this works is that you sign up for your continuing education and your employer will reimburse you up to a certain amount, but let’s talk about that actual amount. Normally, it’s going to be anywhere from 3000 to 5,000 annually.
Continuing Medical Education Expenses
The reason why the employer typically picks this up or reimburses is you need your license to practice and provide services for them to collect on those services. And for you to do your job, this is something that you need. And that’s why they reimburse you for it. A couple of things you also want to look out for regarding your continuing medical education. One, you want to know, are you given additional PTO days? If you go to a conference, are you going to have to use your vacation time, or are you going to be provided additional days? That’s paid time off, that’s typically anywhere from three to five days. It’s added on top of your normal vacation or PTO time. The other thing you want to look out for, I’ve seen it a couple of times, in an employment contract, it may state that if you don’t fulfill that year or the initial term of the contract, you may have to pay back that continuing medical education or CME reimbursement.
It’s kind of rare, but I have seen it. So, you just want to make sure that that’s something you’re looking out for. And then also kind of going down the line, normally, if you are in any sort of professional organization that might have continuing education opportunities as well, those would also be reimbursed. Again, if it’s something that you need to provide services, then you should be reimbursed or given an allowance. And I would say the more specialized you get into veterinary medicine, the more allowance you’re given for CMEs. Other topics of interest include:
- What Veterinarian Business Expenses Should an Employer Pay For?
- Does a Veterinarian Have to Repay a Bonus if they Terminate the Contract?
Another thing that’s kind of closely related to that is board expenses. If you just graduated and you’re studying for your board, sometimes you get paid time off anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks, and then any of your board certification or board expenses or materials that you’re studying, any of that can also be reimbursed from your employer. But again, anytime you’re receiving large amounts of funds, there’s normally some type of strings attached to it. You want to be careful, read your contract very carefully. There’s normally a period of forgiveness, so normally, you have to be employed for any time from one to three years. And if you terminate your employment within that time, you may have to pay back a portion or all that amount. For board expenses, that’s normally always listed in there.
Continuing medical education, it’s a little bit rare, but I have seen it. And if they’re not offering CME expenses or reimbursement, that’s something that you want to ask for, because it is typical within your industry to reimburse veterinarians for this.
Average CME Allowance in Veterinary Medicine
What business expenses should be covered in the veterinary employment contract? There are many things that could be covered, but I’m going to go over the basics and the most common ones we see. The most common one is continuing education. Normally, there is an allowance, so a max amount that you can get reimbursed for, and it’s anywhere from 2.000 to 4,000, depending on how specialized you are and where you are in the country. How much would your practice pay out for that? Continuing education expenses could include books, conferences, and travel expenses to conferences. The list kind of goes on from there, but you are normally given some type of continuing education or CE or CME allowance annually because you must keep up with those in order to keep your license.
So, continuing education is the first one. The second most common likely is your licensing and dues and any type of professional membership, so AVMA membership, there are lots of local memberships that you could join, and sometimes they’re spelled out exactly which memberships your veterinary clinic or practice will pay for. And sometimes they leave that discretion to you. It’s very important that you read your agreement so that you know what sort of business expenses, and you know exactly what is going to be reimbursed. So, membership should absolutely be included, dues and licensing fees, so your state veterinary license and your renewals are important if you’re licensed in more than one state. Occasionally, both of those would be covered. You may need a DEA license and those can get expensive.
If you do, then that would be covered as well under your reimbursement. Now, sometimes these are capped at a certain amount. Sometimes they’re grouped in with your CE allowance. They’ll just say like 4,000 for all those ancillary or business expenses. It just depends on your agreement, but they should be listed there. And it depends on how they’re paid out, but they should be reimbursed in some way because you’re not getting any sort of tax incentives if you are paying those out and they do add up in their annual fees.
So, over time, that’s a lot of money coming out of your pocket. Another thing that’s common is relocation expenses. If you’re moving to a clinic or a practice from out of state or cross country, typically, you will be granted some type of relocation allowance or reimbursement, and that’s anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. Again, it’s structured differently, depending on if you’re joining more of a corporate practice or private. Sometimes they have to reimburse the companies directly for your moving expenses. Other times they’ll just give it to you in a large amount and just expect that it goes towards relocation expenses. If they structure it more like a bonus, it is taxed as income.
So, just be aware of that. If it says $10,000 for relocation expenses paid out in one lump sum, you won’t be getting that full 10,000 because taxes will come off the top before you receive that. That’s just something you need to keep in mind. And then I would say almost always malpractice insurance is covered. And as you know, it’s normally through the AVMA and that’s also either reimbursed or they will go ahead and take out the policy in your name. So, this is kind of a rundown of the typical business expenses. Some veterinarians do travel a lot, so travel expenses are typically covered if you’re mobile and this can even mean providing you with a vehicle or giving you some type of maintenance fees, reimbursements, gas, something like that.
And then also, I guess if you’re mobile, you’re typically granted some type of cell phone reimbursement because that’s going to be important. You’re going to need that in order to provide those services. So, that’s just kind of a rundown of the typical business expenses that are included in a veterinary contract for employment.
Do Vets Get Moving Paid For?
Should a veterinarian be reimbursed for relocation expenses? And the answer to this is yes, you should be reimbursed by your employer. You might be moving across the state, out of state, across the country, or wherever it may be from, if it’s a reasonable distance, your employer should provide you with some type of relocation reimbursement. It’s typically structured in one of three ways in your employment contract. So, you should read it carefully to know what steps you need to take to receive that reimbursement. The first way and I would say the most common way is it’s almost structured as a bonus. Sometimes they call it a relocation allowance, or relocation bonus, and they will just give you a flat fee upfront anywhere between 10,000 to 20,000.
The important thing to remember is that if it’s structured this way as a bonus, it would be considered income and therefore, your taxes will be taken off the top. So, you won’t be receiving that full amount. Whatever it is, if it’s structured as a bonus, just keep in mind you will have taxes taken off from that amount before you receive it. But once you receive those funds, then you can use them however you like, if it’s reasonable for relocation. The next way I typically see it structured is you provide your employer with receipts of anything that has to do with reasonable relocation or moving expenses, and then they will reimburse you directly. It’s typical. There’s normally a max of how much they will reimburse. And again, it’s normally between 10 to 20,000.
And then, you don’t have to get prior approval, you just need to give your receipts. And then the third way is probably the least common I’ve seen in veterinary employment contracts, but that’s where the employer would pay the moving expenses or like the moving companies directly. And most of the time, if it’s that scenario, you do have to get prior approval from the employer that they’ll reimburse those companies. That’s kind of the third way. Again, you have to read your employment agreement to know, do you need prior approval? Is this going to be a lump sum that they’re going to give you and how that’s kind of structured?
And then lastly, I want to discuss, if you are granted relocation, expenses, allowance, reimbursement, or however it’s structured, there’s always some type of payment like a payback provision or forgiveness period. Typically, it’s anywhere between one to three years, you have to work for this practice or clinic. But if you terminate your employment with them before the end of that time, you will either have to pay back the full amount of relocation expenses that they’ve reimbursed or given you or sometimes they’ll prorate it per month of your employment. Let’s just say, for example, you must work for the company for three years. If you terminate your employment with them before the three years, it’s prorated. So, if you work for one and a half years, and terminate your agreement, then you’ll likely have to pay back half of those expenses or allowance. So again, you want to keep that in mind. Whenever you sign these contract agreements, you’re looking to the future. You’re going to be able to fulfill this contract because if you’re not, you really want to seriously consider taking that amount of money at the beginning.
AVMA PLIT and Board Defense
What is the AVMA PLIT? The AVMA is the American Veterinary Medical Association and the PLIT is their Professional Liability Insurance Trust. The PLIT is kind of the branch of the AVMA that offers a bunch of different types of insurance for veterinarians. The most important one would be their professional liability insurance, also known as malpractice, where a vet can pay a relatively small fee per year compared to other healthcare professions. And then if any malpractice suits were filed against them, they would be covered under the policy and then would be provided legal counsel. Let’s just kind of go through some of the insurance I guess, opportunities that the AVMA offers through their trust, and then maybe which ones make more sense than others to purchase.
First, they have professional liability insurance, as I just mentioned, it’s an occurrence-based policy, and that means that a policy simply has to be in effect when the malpractice occurs. There is another type of insurance called claims made where a healthcare provider would need to purchase tail insurance after the employment ends, but for a vet, almost everyone goes through the AVMA for the malpractice insurance, just because it’s so affordable. And under that policy it is occurrence-based. And so, no tail is necessary. They also offer veterinary license defense, and this is something I would implore any vet to make certain that they purchase. If you’re a veterinary associate and you’re an employee of a practice, the employer should absolutely pay for your annual premium. The annual premium is just simply how much it costs to insure you on a yearly basis.
And then the AVMA also offers veterinary license defense for an additional fee. Now, malpractice insurance for vets is, as I said before, extremely affordable. Like a small vet exclusive or a small animal exclusive vet with 1 million, 3 million. So, 1 million per claim, 3 million aggregate per year would be like $250 per year. And then if you wanted to add on professional licensing board defense, it’s like $50 extra to add that per year. And if someone did file a complaint against you with your licensing board, most vets or at least many of them want to retain attorneys to represent them before the board. And if you had this licensing defense kind of writer on your malpractice policy, they would then provide you with an attorney who would represent you before the board.
If you were to pay a normal licensing board defense attorney would depend upon the severity of the case, but it could be anywhere between $5000 to $10,000, which most vets are not interested in paying for. Whereas if you were just to pay 50 to a hundred dollars per year, you would be covered if any board complaints happen. There may be some small deductible, I guess I need to investigate that a little bit more, but it certainly is worth it. That’s something to keep in mind. If your employer is going to pay for the malpractice policy which they should, then you would want them to pay for the board defense as well. And if they say, no, we’re not going to pay for it, then just spend the extremely small amount of money.
Just so you can have peace of mind if a board complaint happens. Most vets absolutely do not expect a board complaint to be filed. As a licensing board attorney who also does employment contracts for vets, I can tell you, it happens a lot more frequently than you would expect. Usually, it’s a ticked off client whose animal died for whatever reason. And they are looking for someone to blame and the vet is the absolute target that they go after. Many of the complaints have absolutely no merit at all. However, if the documentation was poor or if they did something that occurred, the vet could be disciplined in some manner by the board which most professionals want to avoid if possible.
They can also offer personals, they offer homeowners auto, identity theft, and excess liability. They have a kind of full-service line of insurance. Now, whether those are worth going after versus using like an insurance agent that you know, I can’t tell you, but they do have kind of a full line of coverage. They also offer business stuff, so workers comp, business property and liability, kind of employment practices, which is normally like retaliation, sexual misconduct, that type of thing. And then auto, umbrella liability, a whole bunch of things. But if you’re just like a veterinary associate, really the ones that are most important to you are just the malpractice and then the licensing board defense. So, that’s what the AVMA PLIT is. I would consider it rare amongst the professions. Most professions it’s spread out like for a physician, there are hundreds of insurance companies and there is no giant company that everyone goes with.
And same can be said for PAs, and NPS, whereas with the vets, it really is like a monopoly for the professional liability insurance, but it’s just so affordable when you offer so much coverage and you have so many different clients that use you, that it’s just kind of a no brainer for a vet. Now, there are other options. It’s not like you only have one option. But for most people, because it’s exceedingly rare for a vet to be sued for malpractice, it just makes sense to go with the lowest cost option.
How to Find the Cost of a Vet Non Compete
Is a two-year non-compete too long for a veterinary associate? If you are an employee, you will have signed an employment contract. And in that employment contract, it’s going to contain restrictive covenants. And restrictive covenants are just things that you can’t do either during or after the contract is terminated. Common restrictive covenants would include a non-disparagement clause, a non-solicitation agreement, confidentiality provisions, and then a non-compete. A non-compete essentially prohibits the vet from working within their specialty for a period within a certain geographic radius of where they work. In the contract, let’s just say your general vet, it’ll say the vet can’t practice as a general veterinarian for one year within 15 miles of their primary practice location.
Let’s kind of talk about some of the sneaky things that the employer tries to do in a non-compete. First, vets can do multiple things. They can do emergency medicine, they could do urgent care, and they could do general vet issues. You want to make sure that the specialty written into the contract is just what you’re doing for that employer. If you’re doing emergency medicine, you don’t want to be prohibited from being a general vet after the contract terminates. You want as many options as possible when the contract ends, so you don’t have to move. Prohibiting things that you didn’t even do for that employer doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. So, you want to make certain that it doesn’t say you can’t do any kind of veterinary medicine. It needs to be specific to what you were doing for that employer.
Now, for some specialists, if you’re a radiologist or something like that, there’s going to be no way around that. But it needs to state what you’re specifically doing for that employer, nothing more. As far as time, usually, most non-competes for vets are going to be somewhere between one to two years. If you have a non-compete that’s three years or five years, that is, one, probably not enforceable, and then two, completely unreasonable as well. Somewhere between one to two years is the ideal range. Obviously, one year would be better than two.
But it’s not uncommon to see both of those lengths in the contract. So, is two years too long for a non-compete? Ideally, as I said before, you would want one, but two years, I think could be considered reasonable in some states. Now, let’s talk about the geographic restriction. Maybe if you’re working in two locations for who knows, 5 to 15 miles, somewhere like that, is probably a decent range. Now, as these corporate-owned veterinary practices continue to gobble up all these veterinarian-owned practices, you need to make certain that the geographic restriction only attaches to the places that you are working. Let’s say you’re in a big city and a corporate-owned vet practice owns 10 clinics in that city, well, if you have a 10-mile non-compete from 10 clinics, that could essentially knock you out of a city and you’d be forced to move.
Whereas if it was just 10 miles from where you worked, it would be more reasonable. It might be annoying to have to go outside of that radius for however long non-compete lasts. However, you’ll at least have other opportunities. So, you need to make certain, if you are with a big corporate-owned practice, that the non-compete only applies to the places that you are working or your primary practice locations, no more than two. It should be one or two at the most. There are some contracts that don’t just do a radius. They’ll also do like counties. You can’t work in this county or any contiguous counties. Any counties that touch your county would be unreasonable. Now, it’s going to depend upon the setting as well. If you’re in an urban environment in a big city, 10 miles would knock out hundreds of opportunities.
Whereas if you’re in a rural community, there may be no other opportunities within 10 miles of the clinic that you work at. So, that must be considered. The larger the city, the more opportunities, and the smaller the radius, would be considered more reasonable. Why does it matter to most people? Well, let’s say you grew up in a town, you have kids that go to school there, you have family in town, and you have deep ties to a community, the last thing that you would want if the contract is terminated is for you to have to move, or maybe it’s just impossible, there’s no chance that I can move if the contract terminates, well, it’s very important to focus on the geographic limitation and how many places it attaches to in that scenario. And then also, how long it is as well.
As I said before, you want to aim for one year and not two. That way, you have the shortest amount of time to be inconvenienced if you must work outside of whatever the restriction is for that one-year period. Now, how do you negotiate a non-compete? Well, you just must ask for what you want. If they come at you and say, it’s two years and 50 miles from your primary practice location, that’s likely unenforceable, certainly unreasonable. So, you need to come back and say, look, I want a one-year non-compete with a 10-mile restriction from the two places where I generate most of my charges or something like that. Now, some of these big corporate over vet practices are going to say, oh, I’m sorry, we can’t change the non-compete. Well, they can change it, they just don’t want to.
So, you’re going to have to make the decision if they do say take it or leave it, whether you take it or leave it or not. For some people, it’s the absolute most important thing when we negotiate a contract. For others, it doesn’t matter at all. Maybe they move to the community for a job, but they do not have any plans of staying there if the job ends, then you want to focus your attention when you’re negotiating on more important things to you, and you wouldn’t even mention the non-compete. It really depends upon the vet where they’re at in their life, whether they have ties to the community, to determine how much capital you want to put into negotiating the terms of the non-compete. There are states where non-competes are completely unenforceable for providers.
There’s only a handful of them. So, it’s very likely you’re in a state where non-competes are enforceable. I don’t know why, but I get comments all the time that, hey, I talked to a colleague, and they said non-competes are completely unenforceable everywhere. And for vets, that’s just not true. They are, in most states, if they’re reasonable. Whether something is reasonable or not, probably varies upon who’s viewing it. But I would consider never signing a contract, just expecting something not to be enforceable, and always try to negotiate terms that are better for you. So, that’s a little breakdown of how long a non-compete should be and kind of what’s reasonable.
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Veterinary Professional Contract Benefits | Veterinary Benefit Agreement
Veterinarians are in high demand. People want to do everything within their power to take care of the pets that are so near and dear to their hearts, and the skills that a veterinarian brings to the table are also highly prized. The supply of veterinarians is somewhat lacking compared to the overall demand in the market at this time, and that has meant that employers have had to look at ways to sweeten the deal to get as many vets in their doors as possible.
Why Employers Require Contract Agreements for Veterinarians
Many jobs in any industry require potential employees to sign a contract that lays out the terms of employment and the benefits of coming to work at a specific facility. This is done as a means of encouraging people to accept a specific job offer that they might not have otherwise. When the benefits are laid out on the table, it is easier for people to see why they should or should not go to work for a specific employer they have been considering.
Veterinarians will always be asked to sign a contract of employment before they can begin their work. After all, the work that veterinarians do is so delicate and so sensitive that no aspect of it can be left up to chance. The employer needs to know beyond the shadow of a doubt what they are getting when they offer employment to a particular veterinarian.
On the plus side for incoming vets is the fact that they get to see some of the benefits that they will receive all laid out on paper in a way that makes it clear what they should expect.
Reach Out Today: Veterinary Contract Negotiations
Before you sign on to any professional veterinarian contract, we would like to have the opportunity to discuss it with you. It is our intention to try to help you understand every element of your contract (including an analysis of your non compete agreement) and if said contract makes sense for your needs. Please contact us and let us know how we can start the process of helping you receive the assistance that you require.