How to Find the Right Emergency Medicine Job

If you’re an emergency medicine (EM) doctor completing your training and searching for the right first job, you may be overwhelmed by the work involved. If you have a partner and family, then the pressure can seem especially acute.
It doesn’t help than around half of new physicians switch jobs in their first five years in the field. There are many reasons why, including:

  • Focusing too narrowly on a particular geographic location
  • Not allowing enough time to find the right job
  • Not adequately considering whether to work in a hospital or practice
  • Trusting recruiters too much when considering the benefits of the job
  • Not negotiating salary and benefits well

Here are some factors to consider to help new EM physicians maximize their chances of landing the right emergency medicine job.

Salary and Benefits

Salary and benefits must be taken in context. A huge salary may not be so huge if you’re practicing in San Francisco or Manhattan, for example. Fortunately, ACEP’s latest Emergency Physician Compensation Report is available to compare how salaries for emergency physician jobs vary in different regions, while a cost of living calculator can help you figure out how far that salary will go depending on where the job is located. While salary and property prices correlate to some extent, some regions may have disproportionately high housing prices that will have to be considered. As for benefits, consider not only your own needs, but those of your partner and children, if you have them.

Geography

Many new physicians consider jobs based on where they completed their residency, where their family lives or where their partner’s family is located. But if family obligations don’t tie you to a certain region, geography should be one of the less important factors in deciding which job to take. There are plenty of good places to live, and sometimes a higher salary doesn’t make up for a location that isn’t right for you and your family.

Rather than locking onto a single location, it may be wiser to rate several potential locations in terms of your job needs; your partner’s job needs; whether you prefer an urban, rural or suburban setting; how big a city you’re willing to live in and how much money you can make.

Company Culture

Hospital, urgent care center, freestanding ER or some other workplace setting: which is right for you? Only you know what level of risk versus potential reward you are willing to accept. More than one-third of final year residents plan to work in a hospital due to experience during residencies and the fact that hospitals offer a range of opportunities. However, other environments may offer many of the benefits of working for a hospital, as well as similar experiences to those of the teaching hospitals where new EM physicians have trained.

Intangible Factors

Ideally, new physicians should start their job search 12 to 18 months before completing training. This allows enough time to evaluate multiple options and to avoid having to jump at the first opportunity. It also allows enough time to compare the less quantifiable properties of the jobs they consider.

Preferred locations, of course, will have more competition, and compensation packages have to be put in relative terms based on cost of living. That said, new docs tend to accept jobs that “feel right.” Know the market demographics, understand the local cost of living and find out if a given organization offers the benefits and level of flexibility you need.

The importance of understanding the employment contract cannot be overstated. If you’ve found a position that appeals to you, the safest thing to do is to take the contract offer to an employment attorney and have him or her interpret it plainly so you understand every aspect. If something is flagged in the contract, most lawyers are fine with “being the bad guy” if you need to say, “My lawyer recommends that I not accept this clause of the contract.” Taking on your first job as an EM physician is a major life decision, and it’s worth obtaining legal advice before signing anything.
Finding the right emergency medicine job at the beginning of your career can be a daunting prospect. However, it is also a huge opportunity, so it’s important to take the time to research your options thoroughly.

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