As a new nurse practitioner, I was so excited to have found my first NP position that I did a terrible job of contract negotiation- in fact, I didn’t negotiate at all. Not only did I not negotiate any points in my contract, I also did not seek understanding on matters in the contract that lacked clarity or needed further explanation. Big mistake. Don’t assume your employer has your best interests in mind. They may, and I hope they do, but make sure everything you have agreed upon is written in detail in your employment contract to protect yourself and ensure you are treated fairly should a discrepancy arise regarding your terms of employment. What issues should you consider negotiating in your nurse practitioner employment contract?
I will begin with the obvious. Of course, as a nurse practitioner you want to make some money. How much do you ask for? The average nurse practitioner is paid a salary of $90,583. Nurse practitioners paid on an hourly basis earn an average of $47.63 an hour. Use these numbers as markers in considering the offer your potential employer presents. Working in a specialty clinic should pay more than average (see our list of nurse practitioners salaries by specialty). If you have very little or no experience as a nurse practitioner, you can expect to make less than average. Being paid on an hourly vs. salaried basis can make a difference in your career. If you are paid a salary and frequently find yourself staying at the clinic or hospital late, you will be frustrated as you are “working for free”. Being paid on an hourly basis may give you more flexibility and ensures you are paid for any extra hours you put in. If your prospective employer offers you a low salary or hourly rate, reference the average NP pay as a way to negotiate a better income.
This is where my first nurse practitioner contract negotiation experience went bad. If your employer offers productivity bonuses, make sure your contract states exactly how bonuses will be paid and when. Make sure you understand your potential employer’s bonus structure in detail. If the bonus structure is not well defined or the employer is not willing to define exactly how much you will be paid you should be wary. My first employer had an ill-defined bonus structure that promised to pay out up to $25,000 a year based on productivity. I worked very hard and was never paid a bonus at all. Be careful of empty promises regarding bonus payments.
3. Continuing Education Allowance
Most employers offer nurse practitioners a continuing education allowance to help pay for licensing fees as well as continuing eduction courses required to maintain your nurse practitioner certification. This is a great perk as licensing can be expensive. Continuing education conferences are also a great way to take a vacation and meet other fellow nurse practitioners. Typically, for nurse practitioners continuing education allowances run anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 each year. The average allowance is around $1,500. I would not consider this a make-or-break contingency of employment but it is definitely something you should consider in your contract negotiation. If your employer offers an amount on the lower end of the spectrum you may want to ask for a higher allotment.
4. Insurance Benefits
Most employers offer some form of health and dental insurance. In my opinion, health and dental insurance are often receive too much attention by NP’s looking for employment. If you are relatively young and healthy and you do not like the plan your prospective employer offers or if the employer does not offer insurance, you may be able to get an individual plan at an affordable rate. My employer does not offer health insurance. Before I signed my employment contract, I was able to get an individual health plan for only $85/ month. Because my employer paid a much better salary than other clinics where I was looking to work, it was worth it for me to forgo working somewhere where the employer offered a traditional health insurance plan.
5. Retirement Benefits
You should pay attention to retirement benefits offered by your prospective employers and consider them heavily. If your employer offers a 401K match or contribution, you could end up with thousands of dollars deposited each year into your retirement account. As a nurse practitioner, I have seen a wide variety of offerings among employers. Some clinics do not offer any retirement plans, others offer an IRA type plan with no contribution while others put a set amount or a percentage of your income into a 401K account. Make sure your retirement benefits are stated in your contract.
6. Schedule Flexibility
There is a lot to be said for how flexible of a schedule your work will allow. Working longer shifts and fewer days each month may be beneficial to you if you like to travel or simply enjoy time off during the week. If you have children and need a regular 9-5, longer work days may not be the best option for you. Consider your lifestyle and what scheduling needs you have. One of the best things about being a nurse practitioner is there are a wide variety of scheduling offerings available. As a nurse practitioner, I have discovered the joy of the 3 or 4 day work week and can never go back! I would highly recommend an employer who gives at least one weekday off. If this is a perk you want, ask for it when you are negotiating your contract and get it in writing.
7. Vacation Days
As a nurse practitioner, you are going to need to take some vacations! This will help you prevent burnout. You also need to plan for family obligations etc. Most employers offer two or three weeks of paid vacation. If you think you will need extra time, be sure to negotiate a few extra vacation days into your contract- two weeks of vacation gets used up quickly! If your employer does not offer paid vacation, make sure your schedule is flexible enough that you can get away on occasion.
Is there anything you wish you had asked for in your NP employment contract? Let us know!