Dining and signing: Serving up a tasteful employment contract


Will Dr. Greenskin bite back at Dr. Codgers carefully prepared offer? Or will Dr. Codger eat crow?

(Illustrator: Ryan Ostrander)The good doctors have made very little progress in settling Dr. Greenskin's contract. Dr. Greenskin wishes this could just be done so she can make some concrete decisions about how to manage her financial life. With their receptionist frequently overbooking appointments and add-ons for sick patients, our two doctors haven't had time to finalize the work agreement.

Dinner and a contract

Today, they've made the wise decision to get out of the hospital, and they're meeting for lunch. Dr. Codger even offered to pick up the tab at his favorite all-American diner! As Dr. Greenskin picks at a wedge salad, she starts to outline some of her concerns with Dr. Codger's offer. Dr. Codger listens carefully while munching just a little too loudly on his BLT on rye. Dr. Greenskin is pushing for a flat salary with twice-yearly meetings to evaluate her numbers and consider a salary increase. Dr. Codger likes the idea of this low-maintenance scenario. He was worried that spending time to look at Dr. Greenskin's numbers each pay period would take away what little time he already had to keep up his fly-tying skills. But he also thinks that six months is too long to go between evaluations, so they settle on a quarterly performance review.

Hold that heartburn, Dr. Codger

As Dr. Greenskin goes on, Dr. Codger begins to sweat a little bit. Dr. Greenskin's list of requests is adding up to some serious dollars. The international conference she wants to attend (with airfare), membership fees for no fewer than 14 veterinary organizations and the full trio of health insurances are making Dr. Codger wonder if he should just hire two cheaper associates instead. He maintains his composure and waves the waitress over to top off his black decaf.

Just as Dr. Greenskin starts to comment about how the practice really needs a sevoflurane vaporizer and a new surgery table, Dr. Codger deftly takes the lead and sets the offer firmly in front of Dr. Greenskin. He'll go up to the $70,000 as requested, but there will be 10 paid vacation days instead of 14, which will include any time for CE. Dr. Codger also gives a little bit on the CE and professional dues allowances, but he coaches Dr. Greenskin that she may want to focus on paying dues for the more important organizations. Dr. Greenskin will have to foot the bill herself if she wishes to keep her membership with the Women's International Society of Ferret Practitioners.

Just desserts

Dr. Greenskin sips her macchiato and prepares a counter. Before she can try to up the ante, Dr. Codger throws in a remark about last week's surgical procedures. He had to rush back into the office when Dr. Greenskin realized she'd bitten off more than she could handle. Understanding that the old Dr. Codger's offer was very reasonable, and knowing that she still relies quite heavily on the old man for many of her own patients, Dr. Greenskin smiles and shakes hands with the good Dr. Codger.

With the agreement settled at that moment, Dr. Codger reflects on how important this relationship will be for his own practice, his clients and his patients. He ended up offering Dr. Greenskin a salary higher than he had originally planned, but he's been reading tons of articles in the veterinary journals about the crippling student debt issue. He sympathizes with the young new doctor, and he wonders whether he would have stuck with his own chosen career if the debt problem had been so immense back when he was in school.

A nagging worry: Dr. Codger wonders if he may need to start running a more efficient business to make sure that Dr. Greenskin can earn enough to make her expensive education and all the stress of being a veterinarian worthwhile. Dr. Greenskin is a good egg, and Dr. Codger knows that if he plans on courting her into buying his practice someday-hopefully soon-he'll need to demonstrate to her that his business is rewarding, sustainable and secure.

Dr. Greenskin feels a sense of security in knowing what her short-term financial future looks like, and she also begins to feel the weight of responsibility to her profession as well as her new hospital family. Yes, she still has a ton to learn. But in less than a year working for Dr. Codger, she's seen a large caseload, completed dozens of surgical procedures and is beginning to feel more and more like a “real vet.”

Her outlook right now is based on survival on a year-to-year basis. She plans on implementing some strict austerity measures to start taking some huge chunks out of her debt burden. While she was initially worried about how her relationship would go with the old-school Dr. Codger, she's beginning to feel a sense of warm gratitude for the old man and all of his wisdom.

Will things continue to be all warm and fuzzy for our two vet heroes? Or will the day-to-day frustrations of screeching cats, complaining clients and office politics take their toll on the duo? Find out next time, in Old School, New School!

Dr. Jeremy Campfield works in emergency and critical care private practice in Southern California. This series originally appeared in Pulse, the publication of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association.

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