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Career Coach

Negotiating the Employment Contract

Published December 19, 2016 11:15 AM by Renee Dahring

Negotiating an employment contract doesn't have to be a battle. If you feel as if you are about to engage in an adversarial process, then you are approaching it all wrong. Employment contracts shouldn't be viewed from a perspective that leads to a winner and a loser. In fact, the hallmark of a successful negotiation is that neither party will receive everything they want. So stop feeling as if you are going to war, and change your framework to an expectation that negotiating will simply be the act of coming to an agreement on your employment terms.

Your employer is not your enemy, and when they are hiring, they want exactly the same thing as you want: a reasonable and fair deal that works for both parties. Reputable employers won't try to take advantage of you. Employers want their employees to feel valued, and so most initial offers are going to be fair. If a prospective employer delivers an offer that is clearly out of line, you should understand it says more about the employer than it does about you. It doesn't bode well for your future job happiness when low-ball offers leave you feeling undervalued and insulted.

Large healthcare organizations have set salary schedules that apply to all employees across the board. Great effort and research has gone into determining the pay ranges based on job description and experience. What you must understand (and accept) is that an employer is not going to toss aside the pay scale they use for all their clinicians in order to hire you. Forget about it; it's not going to happen. There may be some small amount of wiggle room to negotiate into the upper end of the pay category or range you fall under but don't expect to have an employer agree to paying you a starting wage that is in the same category as someone who has been with the organization for years.

Salary is just one piece of the compensation pie. While there may not be much wiggle room as far as your wage, employers often have much more flexibility when it comes to your benefits package. I don't mean the price you pay for health insuranceby law, employers are prohibited from offering employee-specific rates on their healthcare. But it does mean you will have better luck when it comes to negotiating additional vacation, CME, or other benefits. These all add value to your compensation, too. I suggest you start thinking about what non-salary perks are most important to your job satisfaction now. Consider asking for reimbursement for your license or DEA fees. You might also ask for some funds to cover your membership in your state and national organizations.


Hi Renee,

Thank you for mentioning other valuable benefits (other than salary) to negotiate into the job contract.  I once negotiated for a relocation package and additional vacation days, but did not muster the courage to also ask for increased salary.  I did get a considerable relocation package, but was denied extra vacation days.  Licensure renewal fees might be another consideration for future negotiation.  On a different note, some organizations will say that the allotted CME funds will count towards professional organization membership fees.  With that being said, I've learned from other colleagues that different organizations provide a large range of CME funds ($0 to $4,000/yr).  

Lastly, whilst many focus on salary and benefits, I think it's important to make sure new grade NPs or any NPs to negotiate a structured orientation schedule.  For example, if the organization's typical "new NP orientation" is 6-8 weeks, I think it's worth asking for an extension (i.e., 3 months, 6 months).  And, instead of starting off with a full day of seeing the maximum number of patients per day, ask to be slowly acclimated to the environment by seeing 50% of the usual patient load for the first month, gradually adding 1-2 more patients every month, until a maximum number of (agreed upon) patients are seen per day.  As a new grad, I think this is an acceptable request, but correct me if I'm wrong.  

Furthermore, as new grad NPs, it's important to inquire how the orientation is structured.  Who is your mentor, and how often can you expect to see this person in person per week?  Will he/she be off doing procedures 80% of the time, with 20% of clinic time available only to you?  Has this mentor taught other NPs before?  Will you have a "back up" mentor should the former mentor be unavailable (i.e., vacation, sick day, conference meetings), or will the former mentor be willing to consult over telephone?  



Connie December 19, 2016 9:54 PM

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About this Blog

    Occupation: Nurse Practitioners and NP Recruiters
    Setting: correctional healthcare/career consulting/teaching
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