Getting a new job can be very exciting. Before you sign that contract, make sure you ask some important questions to your future employer to ensure there are no surprises down the road. It is much easier to negotiate the terms of your contract before you’ve signed it because you will have much more leverage. Some prospective PAs are weary to ask to many questions and appear demanding. “What if they take away the offer?” Keep in mind, your employer wants to this job to work out for you as much as you do. Being an employer during the hiring process can be scary. Employers realize this new employee will be a huge part of their lives. Getting a lemon for an employee is their greatest fear. So bear in mind, you were chosen because they want and believe in you. Employees who are not inquisitive in such important matters may be just as blasé about the work they do. Asking questions and negotiating your contract is to be expected.
Duties and Expectations
You need to know what you are going to be doing every day! Will you be doing procedures? If so, which ones? Will you be inpatient, outpatient or both? What is the age group you will be seeing? How many patients will you be seeing per day on average? Will you have your own patients? Will you be rounding side by side with a physician? Does the physician need to see your patient every 3rd visit or so? Will you do the billing? What EHR system will you be using and can you see it? What is the orientation process? How long will you be “in training” before they suspect full results from you? Also, if you’re a new graduate PA, ask if they have ever worked with a new grad before. Expectation might be different for you.
The work environment
One of the first things I would recommend to anyone is to ask your prospective employer if you can shadow. The best way to know if you can see yourself in a new job is to put yourself there. See how the day to day operations run. See what the patient population is really like. Meet the doctors and physician assistants that will be your coworkers. A positive work environment has a huge impact on job satisfaction. This also gives you a chance to talk with the current employees and get the inside scoop. If all the other physician assistants appear disgruntled that is a big red flag. If they are loving life, perhaps you will too at this place. If you cannot shadow for some reason, make sure you ask important questions about the work environment. Ask about the office dynamics. Ask about your support staff, the number of PAs, doctors, NPs. Find out the hours of operation. If you work in an office that closes at 5 every day, you know your day will end right out then every time. Ask about any hospital rounding.
Find out when they are looking to fill the position and when your expected start date would be. Ask about the details such as where you’d park and what your hours would be. Will there be call? If so, how much? Will you work weekends and holidays? Compensation is the elephant in the room. Consider more than just the salary. Also consider sign on bonuses, profit sharing, productivity bonuses, quarterly/annual raises and other benefits such as health care, PTO, CME etc. You may need to make compromises. Make sure before you get to the negotiation table, you how much money you will need to live the life you want to live so that the job is worth it to you. You may find that although a 6 figure salary seems nice, you don’t really need it. You can live a fabulous life with significantly less, so you should negotiate harder for other things that do matter to you.
When you work for a big corporation, you often have fantastic benefits, even if the salary is less than you hoped for. Small private businesses often pay more, but have fewer benefits. Many physician assistants will be given a CME allowance and paid CME vacation time. Ask about this. If there is not a specific allowance, sometimes they will still pay for things you need to practice such as your license, DEA, CPR certification and ACLS certification. Inquire about resources. I, for one, reference UpToDate on a daily basis as if it is my physician assistant bible. Therefore, if the place I worked did not have this resource, I would need to buy it. Different providers prefer different resources, but ask your employer what will be available to you. Find out how much PTO you will get and how you can go about using it. Is there a sell back program for unused PTO? Will you need to be vested for a certain number of years before you can utilize certain benefits? Will your provider give you malpractice insurance or will you need to provide your own? Ask to look over your health care benefits.
Why is this job available?
The magic questions employers ask their prospective employees is “why did you leave your last job?” This helps shed light on how this physician assistant will be as an employee and if they will leave your practice. Imagine you are interviewing a physician assistant who states her reason for leaving is that she didn’t like her boss. Well what if this new PA doesn’t like you? Why wasn’t there a good relationship? Is the PA difficult to work with? This question is the golden question for employers. Here is the golden question for prospective employees- “why is this job available?” Because if this job was perfect, why did someone leave? Did the last person quit? If so, why? Is the work environment intolerable for some reason? Did the previous physician assistant move for unrelated reasons? Is the job available because the company is growing and they have too many patients right now? This information can be very telling about the practice. Ask how long the longest PA has been at the company and how long the previous physician assistant that you will be replacing was there. If there seems to be a lot of turn around this is a red flag. If everyone has been there for 10 years, then it’s probably a really great company to work for and you might want to stay too.