5 Tips On How To Negotiate the Perfect Locum Tenens Contract

Alisha Shibli
Jul. 30, 2020
8-minute read

5 Easy Tips On How To Negotiate the Perfect Locum Tenens Contract

There are multiple advantages of working as a locum. Whether you choose to provide short-term vacation coverage or long-term relief for a sabbatical or maternity leave, a locum is an excellent opportunity to be in control of your schedule and get hands-on experiences in different medical practices.

Here are some reasons why you should consider working as a locum:

  • You can earn good income without the long-term commitment of starting a medical practice
  • You get the opportunity to travel and gain a wide range of experience
  • You’ll learn about the advantages and disadvantages of having your own medical practice that can help you make more informed decisions in the future
  • You may find a future associate partner
  • You can have more control over your schedule

When you do decide to pursue the opportunity of working as a locum, one of the key things you’ll have to address is your locum tenens physician agreement. While medical school prepares you to work with different kinds of patients and medical conditions, the skill of confidently negotiating your locum tenens contract is something you have to learn on your own.

Negotiating a contract can be a bit of a minefield. You want to get what you’re worth and get the top end of the range available. However, you don’t want to lose a good opportunity.

Negotiating your Locum Tenens Physician Agreement

When you commit to a locum, you essentially agree to assume the practice style and responsibilities of the host doctor. Back in the day, such agreements used to be informal and were agreed upon with a handshake. However, the medical industry has evolved since then and physicians have developed their own method of doing things.

Approaches to everything has changed such as scheduling appointments, billing for uninsured services, accepting walk-ins, keeping medical records, and more. Since every physician works towards developing a style of medical practice that suits their personality, it’s obvious that a locum and a host physician may have varied approaches to how they offer care and the management of their medical practice.

All of these factors could lead to misunderstanding and therefore, the best way to ensure a good experience is to have a formal written contract that addresses the terms of the locum and potential “what if” scenarios.

Negotiating the Perfect Locum Contract

The best way to approach your locum contract is to take a serious and balanced approach. Read it properly and if you have an attorney, then have them look at it too. If you find any potential discrepancies, then go ahead and ask for reasonable changes.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when negotiating your locum tenens contract:

1. Do your Research

It’s essential to do your research and to have a good understanding of your market. Research the typical locum rates for your locality, your skill set and level of experience. Your pay should not be an uncomfortable subject as long as it’s done in a reasonable manner. 

Another thing to keep in mind is to check the market rates. If there’s an increase in the number of patients, there will be a greater need for locums. This will move the rates upwards. However, it’s advisable to do a thorough research, especially to know what’s going on in your specific area. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What do you know about this particular practice? Do they need someone urgently?
  • How are the partners of this practice? Do they have an entrepreneurial mindset and grand business plans?
  • Do the partners spend a lot of time at the practice or do they travel?

All of these factors can influence their need for a locum and the greater the need, the better rates you can demand.

2. Know your Priorities

Before you set foot in your interview, get clear on what you consider a “win” in your contract negotiation. Figure out what is negotiable and what is non-negotiable. Most people consider money to be the key negotiation aspect. However, there can be other aspects such as on duty and on-call hours, opportunities of advancement such as project management, research, teaching, insurance and more.

Know the factors that matter the most to you and then rank them according to your priorities. You may get one aspect as per your needs and have to compromise on something else. Knowing what you want can help you get into the negotiation with a clear head and ensure that you get the best deal.

3. Be Aware of your Strengths

Another thing to be sure of before entering the interview room is to know your strongest selling points. Be it your experience in heading up task forces or handling tough situations with ease, your unique strengths will form the strongest arguments when negotiating your contract. 

One of the most effective ways to negotiate is to highlight all the value-adds. Find out what matters to them and explain how you can help them with that. Express what you can do to improve their practice’s bottom line with your skills and expertise.

If you’re fresh out of college, then you bring fresh perspective, high energy, and knowledge that is current–irrespective of where you are in your career journey; remember there are always advantages that you can bring to the table.

4. Tackle Negotiation Step-by-Step

Negotiating a locum contract is not a sprint; it’s more of a marathon. It’ll take a while and you’ll have to tackle it step by step in order to succeed at reaching the finish line. Each term of the negotiation is a crucial step in the entire process. 

For example, you can start with the start date when you’re expected to join. This can be followed by scheduling, work duties, any additional benefits that the organization is willing to offer, along with the remuneration. The end date of your contract can also be negotiated. It all depends on what your priorities are and how they align with the organization’s.

5. Know that Everything is Negotiable

Always remember that everything is negotiable when you’re working on a locum contract. You can negotiate on anything that’s within the law be it your wages or work hours or your attire/uniform. 

It all comes down to identifying what to negotiate and what to settle for. If you get three out of your four desirable terms such as work hours, wages, paid time off, then you can consider your negotiation a success.

What To Do Once You’ve Reached An Agreement

The most important task to do as soon as you reach an agreement is to get it in writing. Ensure that all the terms are clearly spelled out in writing as a verbal agreement doesn’t always stick.

Most locum contracts negotiations focus on salary, insurance coverage, work hours, and other benefits. So, it’s especially important to have all these written down in a locum tenens contract template.

If during an interview, the employer insists on getting to the paperwork later, then this is a red flag and you need to be wary of it. Remind them that you are organized and feel more comfortable getting it all sorted out before you begin working. 

Always reiterate the importance of legality in a professional situation such as this before you start work. Negotiating your first contract can be a challenge and you may end up second-guessing all your moves. Seek council of friends and others who have been in the industry and who’re familiar with this. Follow a locum tenens contract template, so you’re not starting from scratch, and always remember that you deserve the best terms and negotiating for the best contract is just a part of the plan for moving forward.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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Alisha is a content marketing and communication specialist. She has a Master’s in Advertising and Marketing. She loves hoarding books and is always on the lookout for good newsletters. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.
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