If you are not sure about starting your own practice when you graduate, you probably have considered the possibility of working for another chiropractor. This is an attractive option if:
- You have little to no startup capital;
- You have limited experience;
- You are in a specialization that requires more training; or
- You are just not confident about your ability to run a business.
If this is your situation, you’re probably looking for an associate position. Note that this means you will be an employee, going through an apprenticeship of sorts. The comparable position for MDs would be a residency, in which a fledgling MD has the opportunity to work in his or her field for a few years to gain greater knowledge and skills before starting a practice.
Often a great possibility is a position in which the doctor may be retiring or leaving the area in a few years and you may be able to work out a buy-out situation. In this way, you can learn the practice and become familiar with the patients, stepping in easily when the other doctor leaves.
Here are some sources for associate positions:
“¢ Your best source of information will probably be the alumni department of your chiropractic school, which probably has a listing of alumni who are looking for graduates to work in their practices.
“¢ Check Chiropractic Economics classified advertisements for listings of positions.
“¢ If your school has a student newspaper, see if they have a classified section where employment opportunities are listed.
“¢ If you know the area where you want to work, and you can’t find a listing for someone who wants an associate, don’t hesitate to send out your CV/resume. Put together a good-looking resume, along with a sales-type cover letter that describes your skills and abilities. Send it to a list of doctors in the area.
In the letter, state that you will be contacting them within the next few weeks to see if there is a possibility of employment, then follow up with those calls. Your letter may come at the precise moment that a doctor is thinking about getting an associate, who knows?
When you find a doctor you want to work with, you’ll need a contract that includes:
“¢ Your responsibilities as an employee and the responsibilities of the hiring doctor;
“¢ The length of the contract and requirements and notifications for terminating the contract by either party;
“¢ Your compensation, usually expressed as base pay plus incentives for bringing in and providing care for more patients, above a minimum level;
“¢ The benefits you will receive, which should be the same as other employees in the practice; and
“¢ The conditions of the non-compete agreement, if you leave the practice. (See the article on non-compete agreements.)
The contract should also specify if the doctor will pay your malpractice insurance and any continuing education seminars
Before you take an associate position, also consider:
“¢ When you leave the associate position, you will have to move your new practice far enough away from this practice so that you are not drawn into a nasty legal battle over a non-compete agreement. If you know that you ultimately want to set up your own practice in Toledo, Ohio, for example, don’t get an associate position close to that location. You will have to wait at least two years before you can set up that practice.
“¢ Some DCs try to get new graduates to work as “independent contractors” instead of associates, to avoid paying employment taxes (Social Security and Medicare). If a DC wants you to work as an “independent contractor,” have an attorney review the contract to be sure you are protected. By law, independent contractor positions are treated differently from employee positions.
“¢ Spend as much time as possible in the practice before you sign the contract. Make sure you are very comfortable in this position. Most DCs don’t look favorably on new employees leaving after only a few weeks, so be certain that this is the place you want to spend the next year or so working.
Finding the right associate position can be a great learning experience, and it can turn into that practice you have always wanted. Good luck in your search!