Physician Assistant Contract: 4 KEY Clauses

Physician Assistant Contract

Physician Assistant Contract: 4 KEY Clauses

Physician assistants (PAs) are integral members of the healthcare team, and like any professional, they enter into employment agreements that outline the terms of their work relationship. A well-drafted contract ensures clear expectations and protections for the PA and the employer. In this article, we’ll delve into the four key clauses that should be a part of every physician assistant’s contract.

Key Clause 1: Terms and Termination

Terms of the Contract

  • The contract duration should be explicitly stated, including the start date and the initial agreement period.
  • It’s essential to clarify whether the contract allows for early termination by either party and under what conditions.

Termination Clauses

  • Termination with cause might include scenarios such as breach of contract or professional misconduct.
  • Termination without cause allows either party to end the contract typically with a notice period, often 90 days.
  • Severance packages and conditions for payout should be clearly defined.

For a deeper understanding of these contract elements, the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants on PA Contracts provides valuable resources.

Key Clause 2: Contract Renewal and Performance Evaluations

Renewal Terms

  • The contract should outline the renewal process and performance evaluation criteria.
  • It should also detail the frequency and structure of performance reviews, which are often more frequent during the initial term.

Performance Evaluations

  • These evaluations are crucial for assessing the PA’s fulfilling duties and responsibilities.
  • They can also influence decisions regarding contract renewal and adjustments to compensation or benefits.

For guidance on contract negotiations and renewals, refer to AAPA’s Comprehensive Contract Guidelines.

Key Clause 3: Compensation and Benefits

Compensation Structure

  • The contract must detail the compensation model, whether it’s a salary, hourly rate, or based on productivity.
  • It should also specify the frequency of payments and any conditions related to bonuses or raises.

Benefits Package

  • Fringe benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off should be clearly outlined.
  • Additional professional benefits may include coverage for continuing education, professional dues, and licensure fees.

Understanding the full scope of the PA profession, including potential career paths and compensation, can be further explored through the Mayo Clinic on Physician Assistant Careers.

Key Clause 4: Restrictive Covenants and Dispute Resolution

Restrictive Covenants

  • Non-compete clauses, which may restrict a PA’s ability to practice within a specific geographic area after leaving the practice, must be reasonable and clearly defined.

Dispute Resolution

  • The contract should specify the agreed-upon method for resolving disputes through arbitration or legal proceedings.
  • It should also address whether the prevailing party in a dispute is entitled to attorney’s fees and costs.

In the next part of this article, we will continue to explore the intricacies of physician assistant contracts, including the distinction between employee and independent contractor status, the detailed scope of services and duties, and the critical topic of malpractice insurance.

Navigating Your Contract

Employee vs. Independent Contractor Status

In physician assistant contracts, distinguishing between the employee or an independent contractor is more than just a title—it affects legal responsibilities and tax implications.

  • Employee Status: Typically involves a greater degree of control by the employer over the PA’s work and includes benefits like health insurance and retirement plans.
  • Independent Contractor: Offers more autonomy but requires the PA to handle their employment taxes and benefits.

Understanding this classification is crucial as it impacts the PA’s compensation, job security, and responsibilities.

Services and Duties

The contract should clearly define the scope of practice and the services provided. This includes:

  • Clinical Responsibilities: Patient care duties, procedures the PA is expected to perform, and specialty-specific tasks.
  • Working Hours and Locations: Normal working hours, expected overtime, and the locations where the PA will provide services.
  • On-call Duties: Expectations for on-call hours and the compensation for such hours if different from regular duties.

These elements ensure that both the PA and the employer have a mutual understanding of the job expectations.

Malpractice Insurance

A critical component of a physician assistant’s contract is the section on malpractice insurance.

  • Type of Coverage: Whether the policy is occurrence-based or claims-made, and the implications of each for the PA.
  • Premium Payments: Who is responsible for the insurance premiums—the employer or the PA?
  • Tail Coverage: If the policy is claims-made, there is a need for tail coverage to protect against claims made after the policy ends or employment is terminated.

Malpractice insurance protects the PA’s legal and financial interests and is a non-negotiable aspect of the contract.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Physician Assistant Contracts

What should I look for in the terms and termination clause of my contract?

  • Duration: Look for clear start and end dates of the contract.
  • Termination With Cause: Understand what constitutes a breach of contract or grounds for dismissal.
  • Termination Without Cause: Check if a notice period is required to terminate the contract without cause, often 90 days.
  • Severance: Determine if severance pay is included and under what conditions it would be provided.

How are contract renewals and performance evaluations typically handled?

  • Renewal Process: Identify if there is an automatic renewal or if you must negotiate a new contract.
  • Performance Reviews: Clarify the frequency of performance evaluations and how they impact contract renewals and compensation adjustments.

What compensation models are common in PA contracts, and how should I evaluate them?

  • Salary vs. Hourly: Understand the base pay structure and any overtime pay stipulations.
  • Productivity Bonuses: If compensation includes productivity bonuses, check how and when they are calculated.
  • Benefits: Evaluate the benefits package, including health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.

How do restrictive covenants in PA contracts work, and what should I know?

  • Geographic Limits: Assess the reasonableness of the geographic scope of any non-compete clauses.
  • Time Frame: Consider the duration of the restrictive covenant and whether it aligns with your career plans.
  • Enforceability: Verify the legal enforceability of the non-compete clause in your state or region.

What are the key differences between employee and independent contractor status for PAs?

  • Control: Employees typically have less control over their work than independent contractors.
  • Taxes: Independent contractors are responsible for their tax withholdings and payments.
  • Benefits: Employees often receive benefits from their employer, which are not usually provided to independent contractors.

What should be included in the services and duties section of my contract?

  • Clinical Duties: Ensure all expected clinical responsibilities are listed.
  • Work Schedule: Look for precise definitions of work hours, call schedules, and any required overtime.
  • Practice Locations: Confirm all locations where you will be expected to provide services.

How is malpractice insurance typically addressed in PA contracts?

  • Policy Type: Determine whether the policy is occurrence-based or claims-made and the implications for you.
  • Premium Responsibility: Identify who is responsible for paying the malpractice insurance premiums.
  • Tail Coverage: If applicable, ensure the contract specifies who pays for tail coverage in a claims-made policy.

What happens if there is a dispute over the contract terms or during contract termination?

  • Dispute Resolution: Consider clauses outlining how disputes will be resolved, such as arbitration or legal proceedings.
  • Legal Fees: Check whether the contract specifies who will be responsible for legal fees in the event of a dispute.

Can I negotiate the terms of my physician assistant contract?

  • Negotiation: Most contract terms are negotiable. It’s important to discuss and negotiate terms before signing.
  • Legal Review: Consider having a lawyer with experience in healthcare contracts review the contract before you agree to the terms.

What if I want to leave the practice before my contract term ends?

  • Early Termination: Review the contract for early termination clauses and understand the consequences and associated costs.
  • Notice Period: Confirm the length of the notice period you must give before resigning.

By addressing these FAQs, physician assistants can better navigate the complexities of their employment contracts, ensuring they are fair and aligned with their professional goals.