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Anatomy of medical employment contracts

Employment agreements for physicians and other health care professionals usually have common important provisions. Successful negotiation of the major terms of employment contracts for medical professionals may be important to a doctor's financial and professional health.

Contracts should include a specific explanation of the doctor's employment obligations. These include the health care field being practiced, work hours, availability and on-call hours, outpatient care responsibilities and administrative duties.

When considering compensation, it is important to ask for and understand numerical examples and to know the median salary range for the health-care specialty in that location. A potential employer should explain whether compensation depends on productivity, billing, collections, patient visits or other performance standards.

Contracts generally contain a fixed or variable compensation model. Fixed compensation is most often used for new doctors. This is a set salary model that is unrelated to a doctor's performance. More experienced doctors usually receive variable compensation that depends on their performance.

Benefits are also an important part of a compensation package. These usually include professional licensing fees, dues to professional organizations, time off, payment of continuing education, professional liability insurance, disability insurance and student loan payments. Employers should explain whether there are any conditions for receiving any of these benefits.

All agreements should be placed in writing even if contract discussions are friendly and successful. This helps eliminate the potential for errors, misunderstandings and breach of any agreements that were reached.

A qualified attorney can provide advice on agreements and provisions commonly used. Legal representation can help prevent unfair or unclear contract provisions and protect a doctor's employment and finances.

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