Healthcare workers often do not negotiate when it comes to the details of the roles they are hired into, with salary being one major factor of employment that many physicians leave almost entirely up to their employer. Not only do physicians often not negotiate their starting salary, but they also tend not to ask for more compensation over the years, meaning that they do not enjoy pay increases at the rate at which those in many other industries do.
Given that salary during the years of residencies and fellowships are non-negotiable, physicians are essentially trained to not negotiate and certainly do not finish their medical training with extensive experience on how to negotiate for the salary – or other benefits – that they want in their subsequent roles.
Here are 3 things physicians should do to help them negotiate to get what they want out of their job:
1. Conduct the research. Before starting to negotiate, it is best to figure out what is reasonable to ask for by doing a little research. What do others in analogous roles earn? What other benefits are available to them? Having an understanding of what employers are willing to negotiate on and to what extent they will engage those negotiations can help you build realistic expectations and advocate for yourself.
2. Show your unique value. While every physician has technical skills and credentials that deem them competent for jobs in their fields, employers are often willing to compensate individual physicians more if they will add more value to the organization than their competitors. Consider what you can do to improve the organization you are joining or help them reach their goals more easily or cost effectively. Develop a plan to show them why hiring you will be better for the organization than hiring someone else who has the same technical skills you do.
3. Have an attorney review the contract and consider other areas of negotiation. Some organizations do not have a lot of flexibility on salary but can compensate you in other ways. If you work with an attorney to identify where flexibility does exist, you can be creative in negotiating for specific benefits or agreements that make your work easier or more enjoyable.
Takeaway: Physician training does not set doctors up to advocate for themselves and their families, and many physicians are hesitant to negotiate before accepting a new job. However, negotiating is a normal part of the hiring process, and physicians should ask upfront for the things they need to get the most out of their jobs and to feel fairly compensated.