There is no doubt that a physician completing a fellowship program in this country is superbly qualified to treat patients. With board certification becoming a virtual necessity for employment, programs have to provide Fellows with all the clinical knowledge needed to excel in their specialty. ACGME accreditation standards are exacting, and an accredited program can be expected to matriculate physicians who are completely and thoroughly trained in all things clinical.
But there is one aspect of fellowship program training that stills seems lacking in many, if not most, of the fellowship programs I have interacted with. In general, real-world clinical scenarios are completely and exhaustively covered. But, unfortunately, real-world issues about how a Fellow will earn a living tend to be ignored.
Nobody expects a harried fellowship program director to turn out physicians who are able to interpret and negotiate a legal contract. Still, I think it’s reasonable to expect that a matriculating Fellow is at least cognizant of the major issues he or she should be aware of when a physician employment agreement is presented.
As the author of a book on physician employment agreements (The Final Hurdle – a Physician’s Guide to Negotiating a Fair Employment Agreement) I find it particularly telling that physicians who buy my book on Amazon leave comments like “This book really opened my eyes to how much I did not know about contract negotiations. None of the information in this book is covered in medical education curriculum.” As one reviewer indicated “This book should be given to every med school graduate and resident.” Why do these physicians feel that their medical education was lacking? I think it’s fair to say that they went into medicine predominately to help people. But it is undeniable that they also expected to earn a decent living doing so. Matriculating Fellows rightfully expect to obtain a rewarding career after all their education.
What does this mean for fellowship directors? I don’t think it means that a new course on “All the Excruciating Details of Contract Law Entailed in a Physician Employment Agreement” needs to be added to the curriculum. But fellowship directors should consider bringing in a competent physician’s contract attorney to speak to the Fellows, so they have a rudimentary understanding of what to look for in a physician’s employment agreement. I would love to be that person! If you would like to set up an appointment, please feel free to set up an appointment.