Searching for a job as a physician, especially for your first attending position, can be a long, tedious process. You typically want to start looking around 9 to 12 months ahead of the date you complete training, and with nearly a whole year left of residency or fellowship, signing an employment contract can still feel like a long way off. Even so, considering possible terms of employment and asking the necessary questions early will help you evaluate offers quickly and efficiently when you receive them. Here are some questions to ask sooner rather than later.

What are patient volumes like?

Today, many physicians are at least partially, if not completely, compensated based on productivity. In these cases, your contract will specify a conversion factor and a bonus threshold which must be met to achieve the compensation you are expecting. While you may be willing and able to put in the work, you will never meet your threshold if patient volumes are lower than anticipated.

When researching an employer and interviewing, try to get an idea of what their typical volumes are like. Ask the employer directly, but also inquire with other employees to receive a more neutral point of view. If you can determine what the volumes truly are, you will know whether the threshold later proposed by your employer is reasonably attainable. Both your bonus threshold and conversion factor are set in your contract, but they are negotiable. If the threshold is too high relative to patient volumes or the conversion factor is low for the work you are performing, you will likely want to negotiate those numbers with your employer.

How will you fit in with other employees?

While you are getting to know a possible new workplace, take some time to examine how everyone works together and what they do or do not like about the practice. Talk to as many fellow physicians and other employees as possible, so you have some understanding of their schedules, the equipment available to them, and other aspects of their positions. You will gain a glimpse into the workplace culture and see how you might fit in.

You especially want to know how scheduling and call time, if applicable, is handled or shared among employees. Any call time should be shared equally, and schedules should be set, not up to anyone else’s discretion. Also try to learn what happens if another physician is absent or leaves the practice entirely. Will you have to pick up the slack, or will there be backup available? Determining where the workplace stands on all these items will help you know what to beware of when you receive a contract. Unless the contract already outlines everything appropriately, you may need to negotiate for more specific scheduling, capped and equally shared call time, or extra equipment and support staff.

What advancement or professional development opportunities exist?

Continuing medical education and career advancement are extremely important to most physicians. Start inquiring early about extra funds and paid time off that will be available to you. You want to know whether your employer will cover expenses and allow time to attend conferences and other professional development opportunities. Otherwise, you will end up allotting your own time and money to do so.

If there are opportunities for advancement and partnership in the practice, you also need to understand those avenues as soon as possible. Your employer should be transparent about the path to partnership, if it exists, and that will need to be specified in the contract you later receive. You do not want to sign a contract and get years into working for a practice before realizing you will not be made a partner as soon as you thought, if at all. The effects of major changes like a buyout or merger should also be addressed in your contract, since they can significantly affect your path to partnership.

Further evaluating employers

Always remember that your job search involves evaluating potential employers just as much as they are evaluating you. Do not be afraid to ask questions and gather as much information as you can early on. With the job search being such a long process for physicians, it always helps to get a head start on understanding what each employer is bringing to the table. Doing so will help you compare offers later in the process and gain a better understanding of which employment terms you may need to negotiate.

If you are concerned about a non-compete in your contract, Resolve can help you understand how the clause affects you and negotiate if necessary. Resolve is the #1 rated physician contract review and negotiation firm in the nation, and they will make sure your contract treats you fairly. Connect with an experienced attorney who will take your priorities into account, identify red flags in your contract, and even negotiate on your behalf.