Most people are not born negotiators. Luckily, negotiation is an acquired skill that you can practice and enhance. To get the most out of your next trip to the bargaining table, follow these four basic principles:

  • Tune your employer in to WIIFM: This stands for “What’s In It For Me.” Tap in to your employer’s self interest. When negotiating your next compensation package, emphasize the profit you’ll make for the employer, your cost effectiveness, and increased patient access to care. Or when negotiating to work three or four long shifts that allow you a day off during the week, emphasize how this will benefit the practice (e.g., increased patient access to care, increased office hours, and the potential for increased profitability). 
  • Provide options: Everyone likes to feel like they have “won” some aspect of negotiation. Give employers options to choose from, especially when it comes to compensation structures. Even if this includes something you know the other party would never choose, it will still offer the perception of control.
  • Avoid e-mail: This point cannot be emphasized enough. Do not conduct any part of your employment negotiations through e-mail. These issues are too important to handle in such an impersonal manner. E-mail may be seem convenient and commonplace today, but it puts you at a significant disadvantage. If your employer suggests it, simply say, “This matter is critical to my long term success and commitment to the practice, and we need to discuss this in person.” Suggest two specific meeting times to choose from, preferably outside of office hours. This is not a topic for a hurried discussion over lunch. 
  • Never negotiate with the office manager: As a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, you are an advanced medical professional. If other physician employees negotiated their employment package with the practice owners, so should you. Also, remember that most office managers are tasked with the responsibility of minimizing costs, which includes your salary! In most cases you’ll make out better dealing directly with the owners of the practice. If you’re forced to go through the office manager for negotiations, consider this a red flag. Ask yourself whether you are being treated like a respected, advanced-level provider.

The art of negotiating is the subject of countless books and lectures, so there is no excuse for not mastering it. It is a skill that will pay dividends throughout your career.

Abby Jacobson, MS, PA-C, practices dermatology in Lancaster, Pa. She is the owner of Strategic Medical Consulting, LLC and PAprofession.com.