Looking at your first associate contract can be intimidating, with all the legal language in it. Employment contracts (sometimes called “associate” contracts) have some standard provisions and language that you can look for. For example:
Ideally, you should be specifically defined as an “employee,” not an “independent contractor.” If your status is not defined, look for words like “compensation,” “salary,” “benefits,” and “time off” as keys to your status. You should sign a W-4 form when you start, to set your income tax withholding amount, and you should have Social Security and Medicare deductions from each pay. If not, ask why not.
The length of the contract is defined. Since you and the hiring doctor can both end the contract with notice, the term is used as a renegotiation point. You should not be penalized for leaving before the end of the contract, as long as you give enough notice for the hiring doctor to find someone to provide care for patients.
Most doctors pay a base salary and incentives. The incentives might be a percentage of collections, or it might be a per-patient amount. The base should be enough to allow you to pay your bills (including student loan payments!) if you don’t get the incentive in any one month.
Your benefits should be spelled out, and they should be the same as other employees in the practice. If the office has health coverage, you should be able to get it, probably by paying a portion of the cost. Vacations should be specified as “paid,” and other time off should be designated. You should receive paid time off to attend required events and continuing education sessions.
Duties and Responsibilities
Your duties as an associate should be spelled out; including the time you must spend in the office and at marketing events.
Some contracts even list your hours and the number of events you must attend each month.
Equipment and Tools
Some contracts state that you can (or should) bring in your own equipment or tools (such as diagnostic tools). Any items you bring into a practice should be labeled. You should also create a list of those items, with two copies. One copy is signed by the doctor and placed in a file. Keep the other copy for yourself, to prevent misunderstandings about who owns what.
Most doctors include requirements that you practice according to their protocols, and under their direction. They will also want to prohibit you from taking patient information, forms, and processes created specifically for that office, and other confidential or business information.