I’m glad I had a positive response from most of you from my last post. Seems I’m not along in the internal debate of choosing where to work vs going at it on my own; so thank you, reader. I appreciate the support. I’m happy to inform, however that after all is said and done, I’m looking to start at a wonderful clinic in the new year (yay me!). I’m excited for this opportunity because the clinic owner (we’ll call her Sharon, now that she is officially part of my business life) is on board with me continuing to develop my business alongside working at the clinic.
So now, dear reader, that I am past the contemplation phase, and I am going to do with this blog what I originally intended: I am here to help you with the tips and tricks I learn as I go along my journey.
My most recent endeavour was negotiating the terms of our contract. As an associate at a naturopathic clinic (and I’m sure other healthcare clinics too) the most common relationship is to be put on a split . In my case 60/40, meaning in exchange for being able to use Sharon’s facility and administrative staff, I provide the clinic with 40% of my earnings and take home 60%. Now, there are other pieces to this as well which I will get into but that is the gist of it. I wasn’t surprised by this because it is what we learned as the most common split. Maybe you can find a clinic that will do 65/35 and you’re lucky if you find a clinic that does 70/30 or better yet *loosens collar* 80/20. However, with a higher split, there comes more responsibility for you as an associate: acquiring your own patients, increased marketing burden and you know, actually running your practice...
When I was contemplating signing on to the 60/40 split, I asked one of my mentors what I should consider in my contract – what perks I should expect or ask for. She told me to “ask for the world”. Now, the entire world might be a little much to handle. What she meant was to ask for as many things as possible to make getting started as easy as sitting at my desk on my first day, all set and ready to go in front of my eagerly awaiting patients. So for you, I’ve listed the 7 main things to consider when doing contract negotiations, especially in the post-covid/telemedicine era of starting your practice:
1- Clarify what is included in terms of equipment & facility
Usually the things that are clear in the contract are the terms of the agreement, part-time or full-time and what you will be paid. On top of that, you need to know what is included with that pay scale. Will you have your own set of keys access to the facility after hours? What equipment is shared between all staff versus what you are responsible for? As an associate in a multi-disciplinary clinic, it’s not uncommon to have shared linens and general sanitary products. You probably already have equipment from your time in school that you can continue to use. Others are more expensive and it’s worth asking if certain tools or machines can be bought by the clinic (in my case, a therapy laser and ultrasound are on my wish list!). The key is to make sure all the equipment you need to be the best version of yourself is made available.
2- Admin help
If the clinic has a reception team, make sure to know their availability. It’s important to make sure and be clear on what the administrative staff are responsible for during your time. Will they be available to you during all working hours, even when you only work a few days a week? Who is in charge of patient check-out and new bookings? Along with this last point, make sure to ask if you are allowed to adjust your schedule after a booking has been made or make any of your own. As an associate, this should be allowed as you are in charge of setting your own schedule (which are in the agreed upon terms of the contract).
3- Clarify your hours
Bouncing off the last consideration, be clear on what hours you are setting for yourself as an associate. The associate position is almost synonymous with self-employed – no taxes are taken off your paycheck and you are basically sharing clinic space with other self-employed healthcare providers. This being said, when signing on it’s important for both clinic scheduling and patient scheduling to have set days and hours where you are going to be present and available for bookings. You want to make sure your hours are a wide enough range to allow for enough patients to book in – especially when first starting – but also in line with your desired availability for work-life balance. Don’t think that because they are bringing you into the clinic, they get to set your hours; but you also don’t want to give such limited time that it’s an unreasonable investment for them to keep you on. This is a partnership agreement, so needs to work for both parties. Having the same days and hours each week also makes things very easy for you, so highly recommended.
4- Virtual care
This is a new one that hasn’t been considered much until now. In most past contracts, there is this pesky thing called a non-compete that gives a distance limit to where you can practice outside the clinic. Essentially, it’s in place to make sure that you don’t set up shop right next door and take all of their business away. As a healthcare provider there are issues with this already but now even more-so. Virtual care allows registered healthcare providers to see anyone within the province irrespective of physical location. Yes, some patients will still be seen in the physical clinic space, but with the option to work from home (ask about this too!) it opens up many doors. Some clinics may allow you to see patients virtually from home and still use their systems and admin staff – amazing, because now you don’t have to pay for your own. Be aware though, because it may become tricky if you work for more than one clinic location that allows the same thing. This is when having those clearly defined days and hours of work is really important. Ask what their policy is on working from home and telemedicine – it might not be something that is on their mind until it has to be.
5- Will you have your own space or office shared?
As a part-time associate at a multi-practitioner clinic, it’s not uncommon to have to share office spaces. If you are only there 2 days a week, expect the room you use to be used by other practitioners the other 3 days. What you can ask, though, is if this will be the only room you use or if you will be switching every week. For your sanity, it’s best to ask to use the same room. You should also ask for a storage unit – either a cabinet or shelving – to keep your equipment in the office space and securely stowed away on your days off. Additionally, ask about the room set up and décor. If the desk isn’t set up how you’d like, they might be willing to adjust the placement. Do you need a new clinic table or office chair? That can be arranged too. Finally, learn about their policy on whether you can hang your degree on the wall. You might be part time right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it official!
6- What is expected of you with marketing and promotion?
One of the biggest considerations you need to think of as an associate is how you are getting patients through the door. Common practice is for it to be a joint effort. You may have your own platforms that you already enjoy speaking on. The clinic will also most likely have their own website and possible social media that they use. Ask about their SEO (search engine optimization) and the involvement on the platforms you frequent. It’s great to do some collaborations to build that association between your followers and can gain more traction for both parties involved. You’ll also want to know if they have any strategies put in place or have any parameters they want followed when promoting their clinic. Examples might include their branding or the type messaging to their ideal clients. With marketing yourself, you will also want to ask how much involvement is expected of you and if you need to contribute with content creation. Depending on the type of split or even the size of the clinic, this involvement can be as little as a blog post here and there or an entire content calendar.
7- How it will work with your “side hustle”
Last, but certainly not least, is making sure that the agreement you have does not stunt your growth in business (and in life)! There may be a clause in the contract that talks about intellectual property (IP) and your own creations. Make sure this clause states that you own your IP, and it DOES NOT belong to the clinic. The wording can be tricky here; having another set of eyes, for example a lawyer, look at the contract may be warranted. If you want to give the clinic permission to use your IP, that’s your prerogative. All I am saying is to make sure it is your choice. You should have all rights reserved for any content made during the terms of the contract with it staying with you if and after the agreement is terminated. This allows you room to grow your “side hustle” into that scalable business you want to have. Involving the clinic will be another discussion you have with the owner at a later date, and on your terms.
These are the top considerations I had when reading through the contract I was given. If you have the ability and means, getting a lawyer to look through and go over the contract with you is also beneficial. This way, you can make sure everything is above board for your employment rights and for tax purposes – you don’t want the CRA knocking down your door… ever.
I hope these tips are beneficial to you when considering your next contract. What other considerations do you think are important to think about? Who knows, maybe this will warrant a follow-up post in the future!
Love and Wellness,