A couple of additions to the list that I started last month, in which I mentioned the problems associated with fixed-duration day shifts, a contractual vacation provision, tenure-based salary increases, poor roles for NPs and PAs, and blinded performance reporting. I think most practices would be better off without those things, and this month I’ll add a few more to the list.
I readily admit that there are some relatively rare situations in which the following things might be a good idea. But most hospitalist practices should think about alternatives.
Extra shifts. I think every hospitalist should have, within reason, a chance to work more or less than others in an HM group. And, of course, compensation should match the amount of work. So those who want to work more than the normal, or contractually required, number of shifts should have at it. But I think it is best to avoid categorizing the work into “normal” shifts and “extra” shifts. Essentially, all shifts should be thought of as “normal.”
What is the problem with having an “extra” shift category? It pretty reliably leads to confusion.
This confusion is easiest to illustrate with an example. Consider Dr. Krause, a hospitalist working in a practice with a seven-on/seven-off schedule. However, the first week in July, she works only six days, but she plans to “pay that back” and more when she works a 10-day stretch two months hence. So far, this sounds easy. By the end of September, Dr. Krause will have worked two extra shifts.
But when another hospitalist in Dr. Krause’s group is out sick in August, several hospitalists in the group rearrange their schedules to fill in. In September, Dr. Krause works the two days that she originally was scheduled to be off and trades away three of the consecutive days she was to work in September.
While it will be clear to Dr. Krause that she will be “even” in the number of shifts worked at the end of September, it probably isn’t clear to anyone else. The person who determines payroll will probably have a really hard time figuring out whether Dr. Krause is to be paid extra for “extra” shifts during any two-week pay period.
The most reliable way to figure out if a doctor worked extra shifts is to add up all worked shifts at the end of the year. But that would mean waiting until the end of the year to compensate the doctor for any extra shifts worked. And most docs would find that really unattractive.
It would be easy enough to just add up the shifts worked every pay period (usually two weeks) and compensate for any above the number expected, but that would then require lowering the salary for any pay period in which the doctor works fewer than the expected number. Although it might not be popular, I see this as the best arrangement. That is, just pay per shift so that there is no need to keep track of whether any particular shift is “normal” or “extra.”
Even if this illustration doesn’t convince you how messy it can be to keep track of extra vs. normal shifts, trust me on this one. It causes lots of problems for lots of physician practices. If your practice is among the few that has a clear-cut system that doesn’t confuse those in payroll, then stick with it.