Doctor Working On Laptop In Doctors Office

Handling Contract Review Amid the Pandemic

Evan Winter

In August of 2020, an overwhelming portion of the United States population is currently unemployed or furloughed, and many of those who do have jobs are working from home, some indefinitely. Daily life as it has been known is drastically evolving as companies and other institutions find new ways to function while reducing direct human interaction. Despite the massive influx of patients into the healthcare system, and the subsequent need for front-line workers, some physicians are finding their job search attempts to be less fruitful. Additionally, physicians who currently hold a comfortable position may see their employment agreements threatened in a variety of ways.

The state of job search

Historically, physicians have had little trouble finding work in the U.S. due to widespread candidate shortages. Even after the pandemic passes, many sources indicate the need for licensed physicians, especially in rural areas, will continually increase throughout the next decade, if not longer. According to an Association of American Medical Colleges report, the U.S. could see a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 doctors by 2033. Unfortunately, just because the population needs more healthcare professionals does not mean the healthcare system is always willing or able to employ them. Offers for full-time employment have declined, and job searches have become more tedious to conduct. New hires are particularly in danger, since employers often begin implementing a “last hired, first let go” mentality. Furthermore, 2020 residents and fellows who believe they have a job lined up may now see that position slipping away, or at the least, attempts by an employer to revise offer terms.

Navigating contracts, new and old

Considering the job market’s current state, physicians must be more vigilant than ever when reviewing new employment agreements or amending current ones. Employers may be offering contracts of shorter length or building in provisions which allow flexibility in the future. They might attempt to change existing, full-time employees to part-time, or ask employees to work different schedules, change locations, take pay cuts, or alter bonus targets. However, even in an evolving market, doctors are not powerless in protecting themselves from less appealing agreements or attempts to change what is already in place. 

When presented with a new contract or asked to comply with any of the aforementioned adjustments, physicians need to seek help in reviewing the agreement and make sure there can be no unsavory surprises down the road. Contracted employment length should be negotiated and the non-compete clause investigated thoroughly. Non-compete must also be considered if a doctor is moved to part-time or furloughed, since it may affect his or her ability to find work elsewhere in the interim. If an employer wishes to change any part of a physician’s work environment or schedule, it is of value to review those changes against the existing agreement as to avoid breach of contract for either party. Physicians should try to have all adjustments put in writing through a mutually agreed upon amendment, and it is useful to negotiate for an amendment which does not allow further changes.

Maintaining Leverage

While thorough reviews of each employment offer are of utmost importance, for physicians seeking new positions, having multiple offers is also extremely beneficial. Having options not only provides leverage when negotiating contract terms but acts as a safety net if an offer should fall through. Physicians who remain open to possibilities and know their worth will likely find multiple positions suited to their needs and may use them to negotiate further offers. A contract review specialist can aid in clarifying market value for certain specialties, employment locations, and more.

Moving forward

Even though the physician employment environment is changing, and many aspects of contract review require greater attention, there are still excellent positions available if one knows how and where to look. Recruiting has declined, although many jobs are still available through direct contact with an employer. Moreover, compensation offered in new contracts has not seen a significant decline, despite there being pay cuts imposed on some existing employees. Through being open-minded to a variety of positions and negotiating the finer points of each contract offer or amendment correctly, physicians can still achieve their ideal working lifestyle.

Physicians looking for help with their job search or contract review can look to Resolve for guidance. Resolve does not function as a recruiter for employers, but instead works for physicians by facilitating their application process and discovering unposted positions. Visit the job search or contract review pages to learn more.