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4 Methods to Defining Your Value as a Physician

Whether you are a trainee about to become an attending for the first time or a mid-career attending looking to optimize your compensation, you need to know your value as a physician.

This is far and away the best advice that I received prior to interviewing and ultimately accepting a job. 

And before I get too far into this, let me clarify. I am talking about knowing your value as a physician to your employer or yourself if you are self-employed. I am obviously not talking about your value overall or as a human which is completely separate from being a doctor (despite what some may believe and/or say).

Why bother figuring out your physician value?

It seems silly that we would ever go into negotiations without knowing our value

The person on the other side of the table 100% knows your value. But they don’t want you to know.

And for some reason, physicians are notoriously tight lipped about their salaries. By creating this cloud of secrecy over the topic, we give all the power to the administrators/equity owners that our colleagues are negotiating with.

So, for these reasons, it is so important for you to know what you are worth and then know why you are way more valuable than the average physician in your field.

physician value
You are valuable. Don’t hesitate to figure out just how valuable.

But how do you find out your value as a physician in terms of compensation?

It can be a little intimidating to go about finding out this numeric value. We never really talk about money with our colleagues or mentors. We feel embarrassed. But we shouldn’t. 

Here is how you find your value:

(I did each and every one of these things when seeking to define my value prior to negotiating my first contract!)

  • Ask your mentors/colleagues how much they make and how their contract is structured
  • Ask recent graduates/recent colleagues in your field who have re-negotiated their contract how much they make and how things went negotiating their contract
  • Find out how many relative value units (RVUs) the average physician in your field does annually. Then find the average $/RVU value in your field (It’s $65/RVU for plastic surgeons). Multiply these two numbers and you have a good sense of what your annual salary should be.
  • Make a list of the unique skills that you have that make you more valuable than an average physician in your field.
    • For me, it was my training, research abilities, and even my ability to do robotic surgeries.
  • A new service that is available is Compensation Rx by Contract Diagnostics. This service will provide you with exclusive data regarding compensation for doctors in your exact position. This can be invaluable. Learn more here!

Once you know your value, you have a reference to negotiate with. You now know what your fair compensation is. Once you are in that range with your negotiations, then you can get further into the details. But first, make sure you are compensated fairly for what you do.

Knowing my value helped tremendously in my job search. Compensation is not the only factor in determined which opportunity is best. But it is an important factor. Anyone saying otherwise is likely lying.

But isn’t this awkward?

Asking your mentors or recent graduates about how much they make among other contract specifics can seem really awkward.

I totally get it and felt this way before I did it. But eventually I realized that the worst they could do was to politely decline my request.

As long as I presented it in a friendly and respectful way, they would realize that I was only asking to try to help myself, not to be prying. And, in fact, no one hesitated in discussing their compensation and contract structure when I asked. Often, they even went more in depth than I expected.

In medicine, we should all be looking to help each other rather than to make the veil regarding physician compensation more opaque.

A rising tide buoys all ships.

For those curious, here is an insider look at my contract negotiations!

What do you think? Have you tried to figure out your compensation value? Am I missing any methods to do so?

If you are interested in more tailored content to help you in the transition from being a trainee to an attending, learn more about my course, Graduating to Success: How to Find the Perfect Job, Achieve Financial Freedom, and Be the Happiest Attending in the Hospital!

Learn more about my flagship course!

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    The Prudent Plastic Surgeon

    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected]

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