Know your goals before negotiating a contract, panelists advise

Steven L. Chen, MD, FACS
Steven L. Chen, MD, FACS

Compensation. Job expectations. Practice culture. Location. Surgeons should evaluate each of these factors when assessing employment opportunities, said the panelists in the Monday, October 25, session Essentials of Negotiation: Beyond Your First Contract.

Steven L. Chen, MD, FACS, director of surgical oncology, OasisMD, San Diego, CA, reviewed key components to identifying new opportunities and networking during a job search. He categorized job seekers as actively seeking, actively listening, or passively open.

Active job seekers should fully activate their networks, including recruiters and colleagues, Dr. Chen said. A CompHealth survey reported that 40 percent of physicians found their first job through networking and referrals.

“No one should be in the dark that you’re looking for a new job, and that includes your current boss,” he said. “You’re going to need to move on, and your boss is probably going to get calls about you looking to move on, and that should not be the first time that person hears you are interested in finding another job.”

On the other end of the spectrum, physicians who are passively open to a new position can be more casual about their networking but need to set boundaries in discussions about employment opportunities. “Be honest with the people who are talking with you about when you are actually available, what would actually change your mind to leave the job that you currently love,” Dr. Chen advised.

Nasim Hedayati, MD, FACS, RPVI
Nasim Hedayati, MD, FACS, RPVI

Nasim Hedayati, MD, FACS, RPVI, professor of surgery, University of California Davis, discussed salary and contract negotiation tactics. Before entering into a contract negotiation, one must have clear career goals and be aware of one’s emotional goals, recognize desired outcomes consistent with these goals, and be attentive to one’s relationship with the other stakeholders involved, Dr. Hedayati said.

She cautioned against accepting or negotiating a contract during the first discussion with a potential employer. “You need to go back and forth a bit,” Dr. Hedayati said. “You need to talk, and don’t talk compensation until both parties are in negotiation.” Having a lawyer review the contract also is advised.

Initial contracts typically are good for one or two years, providing an opportunity to determine if the practice and provider are a good match, Dr. Hedayati noted. She recommended using this time to ask: “Is this the right job? Is the culture something you can live with? What’s the health care system like? Do they have things you want? Is there room for growth for you?”

Doximity and Medscape are two sources with pay scale and compensation information. The Association of American Medical Colleges Faculty Salary Report lists total compensation for full-time faculty at medical schools broken out by rank, degree, specialty, school ownership, region, and gender.

Jennifer Tseng, MD, FACS
Jennifer Tseng, MD, FACS

Jennifer Tseng, MD, FACS, assistant professor of surgery, University of Chicago Medicine, IL, offered strategies for self-assessment, which surgeons are often encouraged to perform as part of annual performance reviews but can be done any time to evaluate current job satisfaction or one’s progress toward individual goals. She also outlined the inverse relationship between Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Maslach’s drivers of burnout and how it relates to self-assessment.

“When we are overloaded with work and feel a lack of control, our basic needs are being compromised,” Dr. Tseng said. “If there’s a breakdown of community or insufficient external rewards, our psychological needs are not being met. And if we feel an absence of fairness or feel like our values conflict with our practice, institution, specialty, or society, we will not reach self-actualization.”

When conducting a self-assessment, physicians should be proud, be honest and critical, strive for growth, track accomplishments, and be professional, she advised.

This and other Clinical Congress 2021 sessions are available to registered attendees for on-demand viewing for a full year following Clinical Congress on the virtual meeting platform.