Physicians agonize about salary negotiations

With the right preparation and mindset, physicians can learn to negotiate successfully and even enjoy doing it

Oct 29, 2014 · Guest Author

Physicians agonize about salary negotiations

By Dr. Fernando Lamounier

If you get the butterflies at the thought of negotiating with a hospital CEO or practice administrator or even a fellow physician, you are not alone.

In our independent survey of physicians of different specialties, although excited with the new career ahead, over 72% of residents had a negative feeling about negotiating, including feeling stressed, concerned, anxious or lost. Our survey also showed that only 31% of physicians felt prepared to network, and only 9% felt ready to negotiate. And if you think that this is a “malady” affecting just graduating residents or fellows, think again.

Click to Tweet: Less than 10% of US physicians feel ready to negotiate their salaries. #MDcareers

The number of physicians selling their practices, willingly or not, or just being employed by hospitals, corporations or large groups is increasing at a breathtaking speed. This segment now includes 60% of family doctors and pediatricians, 50% of surgeons and 25% of surgical subspecialists (source). This shift is occurring at a time when physician salaries are either stagnant or dropping. In another survey on physician income and job satisfaction, 45% of respondents reported their compensation dropped between 2013 and 2014 and another 43% saw no change in income. (source)

Regardless of where you are in your medical career, learning how to network and negotiate is a must. With the right preparation and mindset, you can learn to negotiate successfully and even enjoy doing it. Here are 3 tips to get you started on the right path:

1. Embrace it - Most physicians I talk with are afraid to negotiate. By avoiding negotiating you are foregoing control of your own destiny - which should be even scarier. Get educated. Talk to a mentor or older colleagues you can trust. Look for courses on negotiation for physicians to acquire the knowledge and confidence you need. Then get in the game. It is easier than you think.

2. Don’t get intimidated by titles and positions - As physicians, we have been relentlessly indoctrinated to give deference to titles and positions and we bring that attitude to the negotiating table. Respect people for what they are and have accomplished but don’t let anyone take advantage of you because they have a fancier title or more letters after their names. My suggestion? Be respectful, polite but assertive.

For example, instead of basing your financial and non-financial compensation mainly on salary surveys, do your own research and determine what is the value you bring to the table. What is the big problem you are solving and how much is that worth to the organization you will work for?

3. Don’t expect to get what you deserve- If you are looking for fair treatment from the universe, you are in the wrong career (and maybe on the wrong planet). Don’t expect transparency and fairness in a career negotiation. Whether you like it or not, medicine is a business like any other. And it is becoming more so with the rapid changes that are flooding health care now and in the future. If you were a business owner, wouldn’t you like to hire the best possible employee for the lowest salary possible? As the saying goes “You won’t get what you deserve, only what you negotiate.”

Click to Tweet: Dr. Lamounier shares three pieces of advice for physician salary negotiation on @Doximity today. #MDcareers

Fernando Lamounier, MD, FACS is a thoracic surgeon in Colorado and the founder of Negotiaid™. He teaches fellow doctors at all stages of their careers how to find, negotiate and secure their dream job, avoid being taken advantage of, and maximize their compensation while doing what they love without sounding greedy or pushy. Access his guide to negotiating for physicians by clicking here.

*The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent the views of Doximity.

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