Protect the value of your future earnings

Protect your most valuable asset—the earning power that your training has provided you—with insurance.

By Michael Lewellen, CFP | Financial Fitness | Spring 2011

 

As advisors to young physicians across the country, we are often asked, “What is the most important thing I should be doing financially in the first years of practice?” Our answer is simple: “You need to build a solid foundation.” The application of the concept of a foundation is different for each physician. However, as with patients, we often see very common symptoms and can make some generalizations about what is involved in creating a financial foundation for many young doctors.

Foundation building for young physicians depends on where they are in their personal lives (single, married, kids, etc.). Also, it can and needs to begin before the physician even leaves training because, like most things, establishing the right habits are key to building a financial foundation.

Most young physicians will see a significant increase in their incomes when they begin their practice. Up to this point, they have typically been living paycheck to paycheck, and a jump in income by five-fold or more can be a bit euphoric. With a “spend now and plan later” attitude, many young physicians will indulge a bit and make large purchases. Often taken too far, they find themselves once again living paycheck to paycheck. The attitude then becomes: “Once I make partner in a few years, I’ll address my financial plan…”

At the outset of their medical career, physicians in training are told “first, do no harm.” As advisors to young physicians at the outset of their financial careers, we give similar advice: “First, build your foundation.” That foundation includes protecting your future income and earning potential with disability and life insurance. more »

 

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9 Post-residency Mistakes

Learn these common errors now to know what to avoid in your early career

By Vicki Gerson | Feature Articles | Spring 2011

 

Mark Potter, M.D., family medicine residency program director believes finding people you can trust to work with is very important.

“Keep in mind that if your spouse or partner isn’t happy, you won’t be happy with your career decision,” says Mark Potter, M.D., director of the family medicine residency program at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago.

Now is the time to pat yourself on the back. You’re a physician ready to tackle the world after years of studying, long hours and low pay. Although you’re in your final year of residency, you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and unsure about the future. You want to make wise practice decisions, but are you really prepared to do so?

Since you’ve worked exceedingly hard to reach this point, it’s important to spend time developing a career path for your future and avoid career mistakes.

In order to provide practical advice for residents upon completing their residency, PracticeLink Magazine sought the opinions of five physicians who focused on nine major mistakes residents should try to avoid. They believe these miscues will have a crucial impact on whether you will be happy with your medical career or not.

Mistake 1: Indecisive fellowship action
For many residents, applying for a fellowship or finding a job is a difficult career choice. Start looking for a fellowship approximately 18 months to two years before your residency ends—even if you’re not sure you want to pursue a fellowship, says Karen Dallas, M.D. Dallas is completing a one-year fellowship program with the BloodCenter of Wisconsin, in association with the Medical College of Wisconsin. “I waited until the last year, and it was almost too late,” she says. “When I applied, many of the programs weren’t accepting applications anymore.”

When Dallas was accepted for her fellowship at the BloodCenter of Wisconsin for her position as a hematopathologist, she received a letter of acceptance, which she signed. “There was nothing listed in the letter as to what would be required of me or exactly what I was agreeing to. The only information I had was the pay.” For example, she didn’t know whether she’d be required to do a research project or be on call every day. She thought it would be “worked out” when she got there. more »

 

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The who, what, where, why and when of contracts

Before signing on to a new practice, ask these important questions.

By Bruce D. Armon | Legal Matters | Winter 2011

 

Before signing on to a new practice, ask these important questions.

There are five primary “W” questions that every physician should ask and understand before signing their employment contract.

1. Who is the employer?

It is critical to learn as much as you can about your prospective employer. If the employer is a private practice, what turnover (if any) has the employer had in its leadership? If the employer is a hospital, what is the relationship that it has with its employed physicians? Does the employer share your short- and long-term objectives? Does the employer have a good reputation in the medical community and the community at large? From a corporate standpoint, does the employer have affiliate entities? Will you ever have the opportunity to have an equity piece in any of the affiliates?

2. What does the employer expect?

After a few in-person meetings and e-mails, you may not have a good sense of the employer’s professional expectations. A properly drafted employment contract should delineate your and the employer’s rights and responsibilities. Don’t be surprised on your first day of work by the staff or equipment (or lack thereof) in the office. Understand the path to promotion. What are the benchmarks related to each step in advancement? Get as many as you can described in detail in the contract. The disappointment of not fulfilling expectations will be compounded by not knowing, in advance, what you were supposed to do.

3. Where will you be working?

Many employers have multiple practice locations. Depending upon the community where you live, you may have to travel great distances—even across state lines—to get from one office to the other.

There can be advantages and disadvantages to working in the main office versus a satellite office. The feel of the practice may be very different in one practice location versus another. This can be dictated by the physician(s) who regularly work in a practice location, the staff who are primarily based at a practice location, and even the patient population that frequents a particular location.

Will you be visiting more than one office in a single day? You should be particularly aware of this circumstance if your compensation is based upon productivity.

Because you will have down time while you are commuting from one office to the next, this will negatively impact your productivity compensation even though you are still making a meaningful contribution.

more »

 

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Shedding light on your moonlighting contract

Before you accept any moonlighting opportunity, make sure you take into account these contract considerations.

By By Bruce D. Armon | Fall 2010 | Legal Matters

 

The economy is still uncertain, and physicians are not immune to these challenging times. You might be tempted to create your own stimulus package by moonlighting.

Moonlighting usually refers to a resident or fellow taking a second, part-time, clinical job. In most cases, the reason for taking the second job is solely economic: to earn more money to supplement your salary.

The moonlighting contract protects you and the party for

whom you are working.

Moonlighting is, however, no longer the exclusive domain of residents and fellows. In an era of decreasing reimbursements from third-party payers, physicians with varying years of professional experiences and specialties are attracted to the opportunity to earn extra dollars by engaging in extracurricular clinical engagements.

Whether you are a resident, fellow, junior attending or seasoned physician, there are important legal considerations you must address before executing a contract to be a moonlighter. And yes, you should execute a contract. Do not rely upon a handshake or an exchange of e-mails. The moonlighting contract protects you and the party for whom you are working. It also helps prevent amnesia when there is a disagreement or misunderstanding between you and your second employer regarding your respective rights and responsibilities.

Are you allowed to moonlight?

This is the threshold issue that must be addressed before you do any clinical (and, depending on your contract, non-clinical) activities for any other party besides your primary employer.

Imagine language in your contract with your primary employer that states: “During the term of physician’s relationship with employer, physician shall not engage in any activity that is competitive with employer unless physician receives the advance written permission of employer, and such approval may be revoked at any time.”

There are several questions that must be addressed:

  • What is a “competitive” activity? Is it clinical? Is it nonclinical, such as being an expert witness or dealing with intellectual property?
  • Is it tied to the radius of the contract’s restrictive covenant provision?
  • Is it tied to the hospital(s) or other ambulatory facilities where your employer’s physicians have privileges?
  • Is it limited to a particular specialty or a particular set of procedures, such as cosmetic, or cash pay versus third-party payer reimbursements?

Before you can safely take advantage of any moonlighting opportunity, you must get these issues addressed. To be sure you are not going to violate your primary employer’s contract, you should get these answers in writing, and have the same signed by you and your employer.

What is your limit?

There are some people, including physicians, who require very little sleep to function at an optimal level. However, your contract with your primary employer may not address your minimal sleep habits and needs and may simply state: “Physician shall devote his/her full time and attention to employer.”

What constitutes full time? Part of the answer may be dictated by your “normal” working hours. It may be unacceptable to work from 7 p.m. to midnight after working for your primary employer earlier in the day or having regular hours the following day. Is it OK to work a weekend shift for another employer when you have no regular office hours that day or on-call responsibilities?

 

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