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The likelihood of receiving a raise without asking for one is virtually zero. We often hear from physicians, some with decades of experience under the same pay structure, expressing regret for not having broached the subject of a raise throughout their careers.

Many physicians find themselves caught up in patient care demands, feeling uncomfortable or uncertain about how to initiate conversations regarding compensation with their employers, or are simply hesitant due to fear. Relying on your hospital or practice administrator to spontaneously address your compensation isn’t viable. Instead, it’s essential to proactively develop your approach to this vital aspect of your professional life.

When and Why It’s Essential to Ask For A Change in Compensation

There are numerous instances where assessing your physician compensation package is not just advantageous but imperative:

  • Eyeing a New Position or Contract Reassessment: Clarifying your market worth is crucial when looking at a job shift or approaching contract renegotiation. This knowledge is a powerful tool in negotiation talks.
  • Stagnant Compensation Over Two Years: It’s essential to regularly review your pay, mainly if there have been no changes in more than two years. This ensures your compensation is aligned with the dynamic industry standards.
  • Switching from Hospital to Private Practice (or Vice Versa): Moving between hospital and private practice settings involves distinct compensation models. Understanding these differences is critical to making informed career decisions.
  • Benchmarking Against Industry Norms: To strategically plan your career path, it’s necessary to compare your compensation with industry benchmarks. Regular evaluations, whether yearly or every two years, keep you competitive and abreast of market trends.
  • Workload Increase: If your workload has substantially grown, it’s likely time to revisit your compensation. Be ready to initiate discussions about salary adjustments in response to increased responsibilities.
  • Navigating Complex Bonus and Incentive Schemes: Grasping the intricacies of bonus and incentive plans is vital for optimizing your income potential.
  • Exploring Opportunities in a New Area: When starting a job hunt in a different geographic region, understanding the local compensation landscape is critical for making informed decisions.
  • Comparing With New Recruits’ Salaries: Keeping track of what new hires earn is essential to ensure you receive fair pay in line with recent market trends.
  • Considering Relocation: Before moving to a new area, research how this change will impact your income. This insight is crucial for effective financial planning and decision-making.

Rule #1: It Is Normal to Ask for a Raise

Asking for a raise as an employed physician is your responsibility and part of having the job. Your administrator is used to managing employee compensation all the time. Why not deal with physicians and their salaries, particularly since physicians bring in revenue?

The administrator is likely expecting you to raise your hand. Yes, that means you are engaged in your job and want to be part of the success of having you there. Evaluating your physician’s salary must be part of the business routine at your practice or institution.

The goal of asking for a raise is to reach a mutual understanding of both your economic and market values. The administrator will consider what money you bring in or the number of patients you see but don’t forget there is also a consideration for what life would be like without you there.

It will cost money to replace you. Don’t let that swell your head. Everyone is replaceable, but it does afford leverage. On the other hand, you don’t have to be willing to leave to be heard.

Lastly, if you don’t ask for a higher salary or the administrator thinks you are underpaid, it will diminish your net value to the practice in the long run. Think of it as like buying a car. If the price seems too low, everyone asks, “What’s wrong with it?”

Rule #2: Think About Timing

Remember, administrators are people. They have schedules and stresses just like you. Be thoughtful when you ask to discuss your compensation. Give them time to prepare. Don’t sideline them, particularly in a public setting that can be embarrassing and non-productive.

Timing a meeting with an administrator means doing your homework. Ask when your hospital’s annual budgeting cycles land. Do your research, ask around, and optimally get expert advice about normative physician salaries both locally and nationally. A great way to do this is to hire an expert since many offer a low-cost compensation review that offers benchmark compensation data, negotiation strategies, and a phone call consultation to get you started.

Rule #3: One Year Mark

As a rule, most companies and administrators initiate salary reviews yearly. Performance evaluations are usually done at the same time. Time your request for a meeting to coincide with your contract terms.

As a physician, your performance is closely monitored at least monthly or quarterly without your knowledge. If you know you’ve been doing excellent work, seen many patients, and done many procedures, it may be time to raise your hand to ask for a raise once a year.

If your compensation or benefits have already been increased within the past 12 months, it is unlikely that it is a good time to revisit the subject. Waiting is a virtue that offers you the chance to show more success in the coming months. There are exceptions, however, such as when a new piece of equipment has arrived or you have completed a specialized course, expanding your ability to offer more to patients, such as a new surgery.

Rule #4: Evaluate Your Practice and Hospital’s Health

This is simple. Don’t ask for a raise in a practice or a failing hospital system. You may want to move on anyway. It may or may not be your job to salvage the situation.

Consider CMS cutting rates, higher hospital expenses, and administration costs. Don’t forget to take inflation into account.

On the other hand, if your practice or institution is expanding and there are patient victories, there is no shame in asking to be a part of the overall success. If you have done excellent work, it will be evident to the administrator that you are an essential component. Asking for a raise is expected.

Rule #5: Practice What to Say When You Ask for a Raise

Doing your homework about physician normative salaries, estimating your value, and getting the best advice before your meeting is the best strategy. Many physicians will get lost in the details. They view the exercise academically and want to make detailed presentations about issues the administrator already knows. Don’t make this mistake. Get advice.

Like any other negotiation, it is an art. It is essential to know who to ask, how, and when.

Armed with the correct data, you should be confident in your worth. Remember, the data has to apply to you individually in your situation. In many cases, physicians who have a keen understanding of market dynamics, what options are locally and nationally available, and your overall benefit to the community will fare well in meetings about their compensation. You will also garner respect from the administrator as more of an equal.

Physicians who can articulate their value in relation to local and national market trends and their specific benefits to the community tend to have more successful outcomes in compensation discussions. This approach shows that you’re not just another employee seeking a raise but a well-informed professional who understands their worth and the market. In turn, this level of preparedness and knowledge can earn you more respect from your administrator, positioning you as more of an equal in the negotiation process. Your goal is to create a narrative that clearly and convincingly explains why your particular skills, experience, and achievements warrant a raise, backed by data directly applicable to your unique situation.

Rule #6: Know What to Say When the Answer is “No” or “Not at This Time”

Don’t be disappointed. Many administrators simply cannot give you an answer right away. Again, it is about timing, or there are internal financial issues you are unaware of and may not have anything to do with you. Sometimes, it may mean waiting several months, but speaking up may hasten the process.

Keep going if the response is different from what you are looking for. Return to the drawing board, evaluate your options, and ask experts about contracts and compensation. The best approach is to ask for another meeting within a reasonable timeframe that is mutually agreeable.

Don’t be afraid to ask, “Can you tell me what you think it would take for me to earn an increase in the future?” A good administrator will know you want more information and will provide it. That is their job. If they don’t, then there may be other problems with remaining in your job.

The administrator may respond with a practiced non-answer such as, “All physician salaries are standardized.” Or, “We can’t do that without raising other physician salaries too.” These answers are really “maybe.” Your task is now to do more research.

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise.
  • Evaluate both your economic and market value as a physician in your specialty in your location.
  • Do your research and find out the best normative physician data.
  • Time your request appropriately.
  • Plan your response if the answer is no, and develop a long-term strategy.
  • Never be afraid to raise your hand and ask for a raise.

Next Steps:

Navigating salary negotiations can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re feeling uncertain or need expert guidance, we’re here to help. Consider taking advantage of our free compensation call, where you can discuss your situation with a knowledgeable professional and gain valuable insights.

Additionally, we invite you to explore our Compensation Rx product. This comprehensive product, priced at $297, offers a detailed review of your compensation package, providing you with benchmark compensation data, negotiation strategies, and a phone consultation to kickstart your journey toward a fair and satisfying salary. Learn more by visiting Compensation Rx.

Have questions about your compensation? Click here to schedule your free compensation call and learn more about how Contract Diagnostics can empower you in your next salary negotiation.

About The Author:

Dr. Drew Sutton, MD, has walked the long road of a successful medical career, amassing invaluable insights and expertise. With a wealth of knowledge derived from his time in the trenches, he understands the myriad challenges and opportunities that come with physician contracts and compensation. Dr. Sutton does not just share theoretical knowledge; he imparts lessons from his hands-on experience in the medical profession. Dr. Sutton has been where you are, and he’s navigated the path to where you want to be.

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