Negotiation: Your Most Valuable Skill
To really succeed as a doctor, you need three complementary skillsets- Clinical, Financial, and Professional Business Skills. Of the Professional business skills, the most valuable by far is negotiation. You’ll use this skill to set your salary and renegotiate your contract every several years. You’ll need to negotiate your car and home purchase. As you advance in your career and your reputation at the bargaining table becomes well-known, you’ll be asked to negotiate with insurance companies, other practices, real estate developers, and even be asked to help resolve conflicts. There’s no limit to the importance of negotiation in your success. Most physicians negotiate several times every day.
Negotiation is one of those skills you can only really learn from others and through practice. You want a formal and pragmatic introduction using didactic lectures explaining the evidence and theory- Then you’ll want to undergo at least 4 practice sessions to really get to the point where you are ready to use your skills. You’ll want to review every negotiation you participate in and research ways to improve your outcomes.
There are several options for negotiation training. The best options for most physicians is In-person physician specific seminars
- The Negotiation and Professional Skill workshops for Physicians (Disclosure: The author works for this company). We are a little biased here, but believe it’s the strongest entry available. CME is offered, there are several medicine-based practice simulations, including a realistic salary negotiation. Other skills, including interviewing, contracts, office politics, and an introduction to physician finance is included. The workshops are held several times throughout the job search season. 13.5 hours of CME is offered, so you can you the cost as a tax-deduction or submit the receipt to your education stipend.
DVD courses: SEAK, a company that specializes in non-clinical career training for physicians and offers a DVD called Negotiating Skills for Physicians. They put on a well-reviewed conference that used to offer negotiation training and may do so in the future.
Non- Physician based Seminars: The Karass Seminars put on a worldwide series of seminars that are quite good. You will be surrounded by business people and there is a strong emphasis on technique over win-win and relationship building- which is essential in medical practice. There are practice sessions and the overall experience is positive. They do not offer CME, so the prices are competitive (CME requires oversight and is expensive). Remember that CME courses are a tax deduction for physicians or may be refundable under your education allowance.
Books: We love reading about negotiation in the way a chef may enjoy reading recipe books. There is a problem with reading to learn negotiation- you gain no practical utility. You’ll read about how others handled famous negotiations, but it like trying to learn how to ride a bicycle by reading about it. We strongly recommend you go to an in person seminar and get some practical experience in simulated sessions, especially if they are medical-scenario based.
Online Forums and Websites: Online forums and websites are a good place to get information about negotiation and other medical professional and business skills. Most of the articles tend to be either fluff pieces, poorly researched, fill of inspirational messages like “have the right attitude”, but are short on actual usable information.
NegotiationMD Blog – Of course, we are biased here, but we have done our best to be the source for Physician Professional and Business skills knowledge.
White Coat Investor– A well-known and well researched blog site with the occasional professional skills posts.
KevinMD – A source for interesting discussions on the practice of medicine. Occasional information about professional skills
Student Doctor Network – A community of high quality articles with the medical student and resident in mind. Occasional professional skill articles.
The Bottom line: there are several sources of Negotiation training available of varying utility and quality
We strongly recommend an in-person seminar. It’s simply the best investment you can make for your future. A CME course specializing in medical negotiation will serve most physicians and other medical staff the best. If you can’t attend one of these seminars, then a non-physician negotiation conference is your next best choice. Eventually, eLearning will step in here as the next option, but for now there’s a tie between the current eLearning, DVD’s, and Books. None of them are great, the costs vary, and after spending several hours or weeks of self-study you still may not be a better negotiator without practice. Websites and Forums offer some educational opportunities, but may not give you the basic foundations in knowledge to help you really succeed.
What do you think? Where did you learn to negotiate? Let us know in the comment section below.
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