The medical industry is a volatile industry. One of my business professors once told me “medicine is an inefficient market, and inefficient markets consolidate”. That means that there will always be changes in the way medical organizations do business: mergers, acquisitions, hiring, and firing. Yes, physicians will lose their jobs. I have talked to several physicians recently who have lost their jobs for varying reasons. One was terminated due to failure to his reach productivity goals. Another was terminated because he was being replaced with a cheaper mid-level provider. A third physician showed up to work one day and was told the clinic was closing because it had lost its funding, and as of that moment, she no longer had a job.
So, what should you do when you get that dreaded call to meet with your boss? How should you react when you go to that meeting to find not only your boss there, but a human resources representative there as well? What should you do when you are served notice of your termination?
- Keep Your Mouth Shut. While in that meeting, be quiet and just listen. Resist the urge to argue your point. Realize that “what you say can and will be used against you”. Don’t agree to anything. Don’t sign anything. Just be quiet. Also, resist the urge to bad-mouth your employer on social media or to “go public” with your story without carefully considering the consequences.
- Maintain Your Composure. When you are let go, they will have you clean out your office, turn in your keys and ID badge, and will escort you off the premises. Maintain your professionalism during this event.
- Lawyer Up! This is by far the most important thing you can do. Obtain legal representation from a lawyer that specializes in health care law and physician employment. You need to obtain legal representation to ensure that your rights are being preserved based on the terms of your contract, that your employer has followed the law, that your reputation is preserved, and to help ensure you can find future employment.
- Address Certain Legal and Financial Issues. There are several issues your attorney will need to address. The first one is the terms of your termination, whether it is “for cause” or “without cause”. If it is without cause, you all will need to address whether your employer will want you to work the duration of your termination period. Oftentimes, when you are terminated without cause, they will not require you to work the duration of your notice period, but will pay you for the duration of the notice term. You also need to request that the termination is treated as a “resignation” and not a “termination”. You also need to ensure that your employer will provide a “good” or at least “neutral” recommendation to potential employers. In addition to that, it needs to be determined who will pay for tail coverage for your malpractice insurance. You need to ensure that they will release you from the “no-complete clause” in your contract. You also need to make sure they will pay you all monies owed for things like production bonuses, unused sick leave, unused vacation time, or unused PTO. Furthermore, you need to find out when your health insurance coverage ends and the process for signing of for COBRA if needed. You also need to determine what you are going to do about other employer sponsored benefits such as the retirement plan and the disability insurance.
- Try Not to Take It Personally. If you are terminated without cause, please try not to take it personally. It is business. Medicine is a business and health care organizations, like all organizations, operate for their benefit and not yours. Therefore, they will do whatever they need to do to run a more profitable and more efficient organization.
- Give Yourself Time to Mourn and to Reflect. Losing a job can be a very painful event. You will feel a sense of loss as you find yourself wondering what to do now that you no longer have a job. You may also feel a sense of anger and betrayal as you wonder how your employer, someone/someplace you have given so much to, can easily discard you. These are all normal feelings and you need to give yourself time to grieve. Furthermore, take time to reflect. This is an opportune time to re-focus and to get clarity. Decide what you want out of life and what changes you want to make in terms of your career. This is a time to rest, take advantage of it.
- Get Back in the Saddle. Get back in the job market ASAP. Start for looking for another job now. This serves two purposes. It serves to let you know that there are plenty of jobs available for physicians. Just because things didn’t work out with your current job, doesn’t mean that the right job doesn’t exist. Secondly, the sooner you find a new job, the less the chance that there will be a prolonged interruption in your income.
- Do Locums. If the thought of looking for another permanent job right now is too stressful, consider doing locums work. Locums assignments can be short or long term. Locums work will also provide income until you obtain another permanent job. Furthermore, working as a locums during this transition allows you to take your time and search for another permanent job. Because you already have a source of income, you won’t feel rushed in your job search and won’t take a permanent job out of desperation.
Losing a job can be a very stressful event. However, it doesn’t have to be. By following the above steps, you can let the loss of a job be a catalyst to a new life and a new career.
For more information about doing locums, download your free copy of my eBook: Locum Tenens Your Questions Answered.