Accepting a job in a new city, state, or country can be invigorating, but making the actual move often is stressful, irritating, and more than a little overwhelming. Multiple factors are involved when you transition from one community to another, and you must be prepared to negotiate for the relocation assistance you will need.
Explore This IssueAugust 2014
Negotiating Relocation Assistance
The good news is it’s almost a given that otolaryngologists relocating for a new job will receive financial assistance and more than a little guidance to make the move as smooth and hassle-free as possible.
“We’re seeing the same offerings for all of our top physician searches, which includes otolaryngology,” said Tommy Bohannon, divisional vice president for Merritt Hawkins and Associates, an Irving, Texas-based recruitment firm that specializes in the placement of permanent physicians. “Most are getting average relocation expenses of around $9,900, and around 70% are receiving signing bonuses of around $20,000. Some physicians are also receiving housing assistance.”
Negotiating a physician relocation contract that outlines what you may expect to receive, including house-hunting trips, temporary housing, marketing expenses, and moving expenses, is key. The terms of the assistance are important as well; for example, in many contracts, if you leave the practice within the first three years, relocation expenses may be deducted from your compensation. (Most relocation allowances are not tied to a time or service commitment, however).
According to Bohannan, the biggest consideration for candidates in negotiation is the volume of referrals. “The otolaryngology candidate pool is trending a little older—roughly 70% are over the age of 45, and roughly 45% are over the age of 55,” he said. “More experienced candidates who are generally moving from private practice to employment will want to ask how busy they’ll be and what types of cases they’ll see. Complex head and neck cases probably won’t be found in smaller towns. Otolaryngologists must think about OR time, types of anesthesia, and specialized equipment that will be available before relocation.”
In addition, negotiate on-call time when negotiating for a relocation package. “There may not be someone to share call with you if it’s a small community,” said Bohannan. “If there isn’t adequate coverage, what do you do if you have to be out of town? Do you have to disrupt your practice patterns, or will the hospital provide someone?”
Making the Move
There are several things to consider before you make the move:
Investigate the neighborhood. Consider renting or taking advantage of temporary housing, if offered by your new employer, to get better acclimated with the new community and its neighborhoods, said Christian Rutherford, president and CEO of Kendall and Davis, a St. Louis-based physician recruitment firm. In the current housing market, renting or using temporary housing might be the best option if you are still trying to sell your last home.
Check with your new job or with your recruiter for names of real estate agents who have considerable insight into the community and local property values. “When we first discuss an opportunity with a candidate, we’ll pass along pretty detailed information about neighborhoods, schools, housing costs, churches, [and] local clubs that cater to their interests and hobbies,” Bohannon explained.
Notify everyone well in advance. Once you know your practice’s new address, notify payers, patients, and hospitals immediately. Revenue will stop if payers cannot reach you, and hospital privileges may be delayed if you must be re-credentialed. Do not forget to notify insurance carriers, outside vendors and suppliers, answering services, and referral sources as well.
By law, patients must be notified about where to find your new practice and their charts. Some states require one or more ways of notifying your patients, and states have varying notification lengths. Research these laws carefully; penalties can be high.
Hire the right movers. Ensure that the moving company you choose is experienced in moving sensitive equipment. Allow for time afterward to test and recalibrate all equipment.
Patient records must be handled carefully to make sure they are not being misplaced. miscataloged, or allowed to fall into the wrong hands. Missing patient charts can create an immense liability for an otolaryngology practice.
“We have an in-house relocation team and a preferred-rate contract with a national moving company,” Bohannon said. “The vast majority of our candidates work with the in-house team. We help them with the physical move itself and in taking an inventory of their belongings to get an idea of how much it will cost to move.”
Amy Eckner is a freelance medical writer based in California.
This article has been adapted with permission from the Society of Hospital Medicine.