“The business side of medicine” is a phrase most residents hear in training, but few programs prepare young physicians to navigate employment after residency, according to research. Wondering which topics to learn? Here are the top business terms and skills young physicians should master before completing residency.

Apart from a few exceptions, most residency programs don’t teach physicians-in-training how to secure a job or decipher an employment contact. That’s why internal medicine faculty at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin have created a crash-course for residents to learn important business topics they’ll likely encounter after residency.

“Over the last few years, we have conducted a ‘Life After Residency’ session for the residents in our internal medicine program,” physicians at Dell wrote in a recent perspective article for the Journal of Graduate Medical Education.

“During this conference, we introduce residents to the basic concepts of the business side of medicine after graduation. The curriculum covers physician employment agreements, restrictive (noncompete) covenants and [liability] insurance. It also teaches the basics of job hunting, interview skills, important negotiation tips and pearls of wisdom,” article authors said. 

Want to learn with your peers? Here are the top business concepts and skills discussed in the article. Master these topics to boost your business knowledge after residency.

How to navigate an effective job search

Dell faculty said the majority of residents in their business course found the following topics helpful. If you’re on the hunt for employment, make sure you understand:

1.  The fundamentals of preparing a competitive CV. Young physicians should understand how to write an effective CV and cover letter, identify the proper content to include in these documents, arrange employment items on a CV in proper chronological order and successfully “market” their experience to potential employers. For additional CV tips:

2.  Hunting for employment (beyond online searches). That dream job you want won’t serendipitously find you on your next lunch break. You’ll have to work for it—and that means networking and actively searching for employment. To secure new opportunities, residents should understand “the basics of job searches and networking, when to use recruiters and [how to navigate] the process of job inquiry,” the authors suggest.

Before you begin, review these four things every resident should know for their job search.

3.  Leaving a strong impression on interviews and in recommendations. Beyond skills and experience, how would someone describe your character and professionalism? That’s the question job-seeking physicians should answer by garnering strong recommendation letters from trustworthy sources and conducting effective interviews. Also research interview tips and pertinent information about an employer to help prepare strong insights to share in your interviews.

The basics of employment agreements (contracts) and negotiation

Topics relating to noncompetes, types of [liability] insurance (particularly tail insurance) and negotiation tips seemed to be of most use to ... residents,” according to article authors. Look out for these key factors when reviewing a contract:

4.  The basics of compensation and benefits. Learn how to identify various compensation models, partnership tracks and the basics of employee benefits. Identify the key benefits that will benefit you and your family—be sure to arm yourself with this information before negotiating.

5.  Negotiation tactics. “While mastering negotiation skills is important in the context of employment agreements, such skills can be invaluable in many other aspects of work-life balance as a practicing physician,” the article noted.

That’s why the Dell physicians recommend for residents to appreciate “the basic principles of negotiation, including discussions about determining priorities, when to negotiate and the fundamentals of effective negotiation.”

“Even for physicians who hire attorneys, knowing what items in a contract are the most important to them personally can help them ‘pick their battles’ and negotiate more effectively, or guide their attorney on what matters most to them,” according to the article.  

Use these resources to learn how to negotiate with future employers and identify the key areas of a contract before starting a new job:

6.  Important terms and clauses for contracts. Learn how to define termination clauses, the concept of the non-compete clause and its impact on job changes, restrictive covenants and the various kinds of liability insurance, including tail insurance, that may impact you in practice, authors advised.

When it comes to contract terms, “Of particular importance are ‘noncompetes’ (or ‘restrictive covenants’) and ‘tail’ liability insurance, which can significantly hinder a physician’s career options and flexibility if not properly understood,” they noted.

In fact, “the American College of Physicians Center for Practice Improvement and Innovation calls restrictive covenants ‘one of the most important yet least understood and potentially most contentious aspects of an employment agreement,’ because ‘these clauses seek to prohibit the physician from practicing medicine for a specified period of time in a specific geographical area.’ Similarly, tail liability insurance can discourage a physician from considering a new practice because of the cost associated with it,” according to the article.

To learn more about Dell’s business course for residents, read the perspective piece.

Need help learning the business side of medicine? Get started with these AMA resources:

  • The “Annotated model physician-group practice employment agreement” gives descriptions of common contract terms, in-depth explanations of business and legal consequences, negotiation tips and sample contract provisions.
  • The “Annotated model physician-hospital employment agreement” addresses the specific needs of physicians who are preparing to negotiate employment contracts with hospitals.
  • The Principles for Physician Employment provide a framework to help guide physicians and their employers as they collaborate on providing safe, high-quality and cost-effective patient care.
  • The physician employment resources Web page includes a variety of resources to help meet the unique needs of a growing population of employed physicians.


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