Physician benefits are an important part of any physician employment agreement. Although some specialties get more vacation time than others, physicians should not accept less than three weeks of paid vacation and one week of paid time off for continuing medical education in the agreement’s initial year. Some specialties have considerably more vacation, and two weeks of CME is not unheard of – especially for physicians in a sub-specialty or those who are double-boarded. When reviewing a physician employment agreement, I utilize Medical Group Management Association (“MGMA”) benchmarks to determine the reasonableness of an offer. For more senior physicians, the amount of paid time off should increase. I have previously written about employer reactions to citing MGMA benchmarks in a physician employment agreement review.
The employer should also pay all or some portion of the CME costs. Here again, MGMA provides benchmarks for comparison. I have been able to negotiate additional paid time off for board certification/recertification testing, as well as payment by the employer for the costs associated with board certification and recertification.
If the physician is required to maintain hospital privileges, the employer should agree to pay for their medical staff dues. In addition, many employers are willing to pay for Drug Enforcement Administration (and/or state equivalent) registration fees, cell phones and usage plans, and mileage allowances for trips between offices or to the hospital or other facilities.
Many employers will also pay dues to the American Medical Association or the American Osteopathic Association, and/or to state and local medical societies. Frequently, employers also pay dues on one’s behalf to one or more specialty societies.
It is also becoming more common for employers to agree to pay a portion of medical school debt. That repayment can take different forms: for example, some employers might offer a ﬂat monthly payment or an annual payment at the end of each contract year. These repayments can total $75,000 or more.
Although less common, some employers will agree to pay a monthly residency or fellowship stipend between the time the agreement is executed and the time work commences.
One of the most important physician benefits is the provision of malpractice insurance. I have previously written about malpractice insurance in physician employment agreements.
Physician disability provisions in employment agreements can also have a major impact on your life.
It’s always worth asking for a private office – although it seems these are becoming less common all the time for new physicians. Although not always thought of as a physician benefit, if you are in a surgical specialty, you can sometimes obtain guarantees about reasonable blocks of time in the OR. Finally, it is sometimes possible to negotiate the right to have input into hiring or firing of support staff (such as nurses, LPNs, and others).
It’s important to examine all physician benefits. Too many physicians focus solely on the salary or the physician sign-on bonus and relocation allowance.
Every physician benefits package will be different. Don’t expect all the benefits listed above from any one employer. At the same time, it never hurts to ask about these benefits. As I pointed out in my book on physician employment agreements, the meek may inherit the earth, but they rarely obtain the best compensation packages.