Throughout your career as an emergency medicine physician, you will have numerous contracts—perhaps even multiple contracts running concurrently. Whether you’re a graduating resident or a long-time ED doc, understanding and negotiating contract terms is essential. Ask these eight critical questions to avoid contract negotiation pitfalls that could put you in a pinch.

1. What’s my status? 
Your status can impact many elements of your contract. Make sure you understand which standard you fall into. Are you an independent contractor, employee, limited liability partner, capital contributor, or a buy-in partner? Your status impacts your pay and benefits, taxes, how involved you are with practice management, and more.

2. Who will cover my credentialing expenses? 
Ask who will cover credentialing, certification, and licensing expenses. Often there is a staff application fee and certification requirements as well as your own current licensing requirements for each state. Also, if you’re required to travel from state to state, find out if the group or hospital will cover your travel costs.

3. Does this contract have a non-compete clause? 
Look out for non-compete requirements in all contracts. Without a non-compete clause, you will be free to pick up shifts and/or take a full-time opportunity at another ED in your community. Additionally, if the hospital undergoes a management change in the ED, a non-compete clause may prohibit you from continuing work at the facility.

4. What type of malpractice coverage is offered?
Research the malpractice insurance company to review its reputation. Push for an occurrence-based policy, which covers any occurrence during you employment, regardless of when the claim is filed. Know what type of coverage you have—Claims Made, Tail, or Occurrence-Based.

5. How long is my termination period?
90 days is the typical length. Push for a termination period shorter than 120 days.

6. Can you walk me through my compensation and benefits?
Make sure you’re fully briefed on what benefits you will receive. Before you sign, be sure you have a clear understanding of how you’ll be paid, who will pay you, and whether incentive pay will play a role in your paycheck.

7. What rights, responsibilities, and requirements do I have?
Don’t mince words when it comes to the finer details of your contract. What supervisory responsibilities you will have if any? Will you have voting rights if the group is democratic? What are your hour requirements? In short: be sure you understand what’s expected of you.

8. What type of professional advice do I need?
Seek tax, investment, and legal counsel to guide you as you make contract decisions. The contract review process can be daunting. Keep in mind, you have more bargaining power than you realize. As an emergency medicine physician, you are in demand. Never sign a contract until you understand all of it.